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Google reportedly in talks to buy smart glasses maker North for $180 million


Google is reportedly in talks to acquire smart glasses manufacturer North Inc. to the tune of $180 million, potentially shoring up its own wearable efforts with the acquisition. Google saw limited success with its own “Google Glass” smart glasses, though the project lives on. The new purchase, if it happens, could also complement Google’s acquisition of Fitbit.

In case you’re unfamiliar, North is a Canadian-based company that makes Smart Glasses which project an image on an optionally prescription lens. The company previously opened a showroom in Brooklyn, NY back in late 2018. Obviously, these glasses don’t have a touchscreen: North’s first-gen smart glasses used a built-in mic and a ring (as in: touch controls that you wear on a finger) for commands. They could do stuff like show you notifications and messages as they come in, or help with navigation. For more details, you can see MrMobile’s video review of the first-generation product here.

Virtual demonstration of North’s first-generation “Focals.”

Details come courtesy of The Globe and Mail, though there aren’t too many to the story, and sources have not been revealed. North previously picked up Intel’s smart glasses patents in 2018, shoring up its own portfolio. But the company has faced more recent issues, like failing to materialize an anticipated second-generation product and laying off almost 500 employees last year. The Globe and Mail was told that the company may not have sold “many more than 1,000 pairs,” and that it was close to running out of money.

North reportedly began hunting for a buyer earlier this year, apparently attracting Google’s interest.

It remains to be seen just how Google plans to use the acquisition — if it happens. The company may simply wish to bolster its own smart glasses efforts now that Google Glass is getting some traction in enterprise use, though there could be other wearable applications. We’re still waiting for the Fitbit acquisition to be approved, as well, so this could just be Google hedging its bets.

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