The appeal of Hololens and rumored Apple Glass is that they offer augmented reality capacity. Aka layering useful information onto an existing field of view. Google Glass back in the day also offered that - perhaps ahead of its time given the technology constraints at the time.
I'm starting to think beyond the "I already wear glasses anyway" use case, these may be targeted for industrial applications where (1) some form of eye protection is mandated, (2) spatial audio context is critical, and (3) having a personal device (phone, watch) is either frowned upon or not allowed.
While living in NYC, I observed that the Apple Watch's most aggressive adoption was among people whose jobs didn't allow access to phones on the regular—think restaurants, service industries, etc. The value wasn't that it was a watch, it was that it _wasn't_ a phone.
I wonder if a similar reality isn't also true of product categories like these …
What the HL2 has is the first good interface to AR/XR with incredible touch, hand tracking, and situational awareness. All AR will end up like this. It's so much better of an experience and designed to share with friends.
There is definitely a lack of good apps right now, but that will be changing. It's more the experience in HL2 that is astounding and I expect most devices to eventually adopt this
I haven't gotten into the programming deep yet, I hope you are not right for my sake :]
Unlike Apple, North's optics is so much simpler.
It might be cool but it's not useful.
OTOH I think real subtle hand gestures could be a great input mechanism. The interface used by the now-abandoned "Soli" might be worthwhile. Voice interaction seems very tedious and embarrassing to use in public.
BTW, the HL2 was design for sharing and privacy from the get go. It is after all the basis for next gen military helmets
Like the half-hearted, and ultimately abandoned attempts they did for ultra-portables, wearables, tablets, etc? They even seem to lose interest in Android...
I wonder why they even bother...
I tried Google glass back when Google brought it to a local IT conference and was told that a prescription version was unnecessary because it could be adjusted. It couldn't be adjusted to work for me, and even if it could have then I would still need prescription glasses to see everything else.
More on their blog here: https://www.bynorth.com/
Medical what? I actually had an early version of the armband and SDK, and apart from it just not working well, it aggravated my latent repetitive stress injury, just playing around with it. More importantly, though, it was a solution in search of a problem. There was no real use-case for it.
Holly molly! They once talked with Recon Instruments about them for a few hundred thousand bucks...
Will the thing still work if I hook it up? I don't even know. As a Bluetooth device, I feel like it should be possible, but I don't know if it has any cloud service dependencies.
EDIT: Answer my own question, North's website doesn't link to https://support.getmyo.com/hc/en-us anywhere obvious, but the downloads are all there, including a zip file with all the market apps ever developed for it.
Well, good for them, but probably not for the business.
Google, please stop buying companies, please learn to support your products and build a loyal customer base. You are not a startup anymore, you need to make the transformation that companies like Microsoft did, and quit moving fast and breaking things.
People don't want an agile foundation, they want a hundred year foundation.
They rented an expensive glassy corner storefront ($50k/month I heard at the time) and built it out to a very high standard, but there was never anyone inside shopping. The store employees just stood around looking at their phones all day looking super bored.
I also found it bizarre that they didn't seem to be making any effort to use the space as a marketing tool beyond it's mere presence...I anticipated when they opened that there would be VIP/media/influencer events on a regular basis, but they seemingly just opened in the mornings and closed at night. Having been involved in opening some retail stores, "if you build it they will come" was certainly never part of our strategy.
There never seemed to be any attempt to attract customers or make the store more inviting at all...they didn't even have a listing on Google Maps for months after they opened. Seeing this stagnant shop every single day I spent a lot of time thinking about what must be going on inside this outwardly "promising startup" to make such an investment only to let it languish. Seems like my suspicions weren't misplaced!
edit -- I guess I should close it on OSM ;)
This describes a surprisingly high number of companies I’ve worked at in Canada. These SRED credits keep afloat so many companies that should have otherwise perished and that won’t ever go anywhere.
You can even hire SRED consultants that will help you milk those credits as much as possible (for a fee of course). You can then apply for more credits to pay off these SRED consultants fees, as I understand it... While producing little to no commercial value, and coast on these for years.
Also in the US there's a real sense of having to hunt and compete for talent, but at least then in the Toronto startup scene you were to feel blessed for not having to work for a bank or insurance company, so put up the with the bullshit and dysfunction please...
With the increase in remote work availability I'd probably hunt for work from US companies at this point rather than beg for crumbs from Canadian startups.
Even better, many SRED consultants work on a contingent basis, i.e. they just get a fraction of your SRED refund!
It needs to be replaced.
The American approach is to finance fundamental research that's just beyond what's currently possible and viable (take a look at the Apollo Program and the semiconductor industry or any modern DARPA challenge) while the Canadian one seems to be a kind of cargo culting of Silicon Valley where some non-technical civil servant looks for keywords in a form to grant money or not.
Seems a little strong?
https://www.iqt.org/portfolio/ (Cockroach Labs, GitLab, DataRobot, databricks, Cloudera, mongoDB (I know), probably more you've heard of)
https://www.sbir.gov/news/success-stories (Qualcomm, iRobot, 23andMe, Orbital ATK, countless others)
https://sbir.<any agency here>.gov/
https://www.darpa.mil/Timeline/index.html (the internet, voice recognition, virtual reality, GPS, onion routing, the computer mouse, touchscreens, etc.)
Also, the many startups that were spun out of public universities and government-funded research.
The problem with "government VC" is not the low hit rate--private VC has a low hit rate too.
The problem is also not that government funds get gamed--private VC gets gamed too. See WeWork for an absolutely enormous example.
The problem is really with the different cultural expectations for government vs private capital.
If a private VC firm loses 95% of their investments to failure and fraud, but has huge hits with the remaining 5%, well, that's just how VC works. The only thing that really matters is their net. If they end up with a big return, they are geniuses.
But if the government loses 95% of their investments, that's a ton of wasted taxpayer money. That's a lot of fodder for press, politicians, and activists to make hay out of. And if the remaining 5% are hits, well, the government does not exist to turn a profit. So the credit does not work out the same, even if the hit rate is similar.
And one point in favor of government VC: it often isn't primarily profit-driven. Look for example at the energy.gov portfolio. While they obviously want their money back, they aren't trying to pick unicorns; they're trying to improving Americans' lives by improving the environment and the economy.
> LPO can provide first-of-a-kind projects and other high-impact energy-related ventures with access to debt capital that private lenders cannot or will not provide.
This is true of a lot of government investment. It's a good thing, on balance, that the people choosing government investments are not paid based on how much profit they generate or how many users they amass.
Not denying the founders had lavish lifestyles, but they were running a company that raised 15M series A, and 120M series B - so that's honestly "expected". The grant I assume you're referencing was a 34M loan, which was to be paid out over time, and was recalled once North announced layoffs last year.
I won't defend their business decisions or argue they were a "promising startup" - I think they deserve the criticism. But I'd rather not throwout some false stories or accusations.
The startup lottery just doesn't make sense for employees, even early ones. Founder is the only position worth holding. Early employees need to start demanding more from their founders.
They got to milk government grants for a few years and managed to sell the company (really the patents) at a premium before it went bankrupt.
Had they been able to sell more units and make a viable product they would probably have been able to raise more.
Maybe lavish is a bit of hyperbole. And after their 15M series A, I can assume they had competitive salaries given their life decisions (modest homes and cars).
In fairness isn't that how this tech works
From what I've been told the current employees won't even be offered to interview at Google, much less hired. They might keep some of the folks around until the support for their existing products end, but if they do it will be from their offshoring development center in Canada. Only the patents and the tech is really going to Mountain View. That paints a pretty dark picture of the business; it seems they didn't improve a lot on the tech that they got from Intel. Google is paying a premium to make sure the patents don't end up at Apple.
No words on the founders either, that typically means they won't be part of the AR team at Google. Else it would have been announced.
Like what? Android, YouTube, DoubleClick, ReCAPTCHA, Waze, VirusTotal, Nest, DeepMind?
Aside from search every major Google product is built on an acquisition. Maps was Keyhole and Where2. AdWords was Applied Semantics. Google Docs is Writely, and Tonic. Google Voice is GrandCentral. Google Analytics is Urchin. Google Shopping is BeatThatQuote. Google Flight is ATA. etc. etc. etc.
Whatever startup you're bitter about probably wasn't going to make it outside Google anyway and it was an aquihire, or Google gave them the runway to prove it out and it didn't work.
As a counterpoint, Cloud has acquired several companies that haven’t disappeared; rather, are fairly foundational in the portfolio:
- Cask (now Cloud Data Fusion as a product, CDAP as an OSS project)
Nowadays the Stackdriver suite just feels left behind. There's plenty of other options in this space that have a nice internal integration and are reasonably inexpensive to purchase, or run yourself. If Stackdriver weren't so tightly integrated with Google's other cloud products I have to imagine it would get even less use than it does now.
Also, until recently the admin lived outside of the main GCP admin and logging into it required some kind of redirect-bouncing oauth handshake that was consistently buggy for me. Something to do with browser defaults/3rd party cookies along the chain of redirects that would cause an infinite loop. I managed to work around it on my work computer, but it was broken for at least a year...not awesome for a tool you'll be logging into in emergencies, often from other devices.
North had failed and this was an exit that was better than bankrupcy.
Employment is explicitly not guaranteed at Google, and if so it'll be from their satellite office. And no words on the founders coming onboard at Google which is a sign that they really aren't interested by the company itself.
North shipped about 1'000 units in its lifetime, barely different than the Intel Vaunt, and their V2 was still exclusively CGI rendering on their website with no launch data in sight.
This looks like a distressed fire sale rather than a good exit, considering the product failed.
It's actually not Google's fault. It's the founders of these startups who can't resist their offer nor can they do anything to control the company once they have taken lots of venture capital and are driven for an exit.
Snap resisted acquisition from Facebook and Google. Dropbox resisted Apple buying them, so the fault isn't with the acquirers. It's all the founders fault for accepting it.
It's also not limited to those companies I mentioned, but 15 years ago, Microsoft, Google, Viacom, Myspace, Yahoo, AOL all wanted to buy Facebook pre-IPO and FB resisted all attempts and they have now become highly profitable themselves as such that they have owned the social media market. Even Netflix was approached an offer of $50 million by Blockbuster and resisted a buyout.
Given the hindsight of the growth of those companies, including Apple and Facebook, had you'd been the CEO of either of them, you'd think that selling wouldn't have been a good idea.
Netflix and Facebook, sure, but you didn’t quite use a convincing example to support the argument.
Not that I disagree with the spirit of what was said...
Is an acquisition of a startup akin to slavery (buying another person to do work for you), adoption (raising an orphaned kid), cannibalism (consuming the entity to be apart of yourself to feed some entity life-force need), or something else?
> The first-gen North Focals glasses won't work after July 31, 2020, but North is issuing refunds to people who bought the smartglasses
At least they are giving out refunds, unlike other companies that have shutdown, but still.
Things like this is why I am a firm member of the selfhosted club
> We will not be shipping Focals 2.0, but we hope you will continue the journey with us as we start this next chapter.
That's pretty much what the normal experience is for buying prescription glasses.
You try on the frame to see if it is comfortable, but you can't try out the prescription in the frame until a week after you have ordered them.
They were alright. The frames were reminiscent of big hipster frames, which I don't like, but they weren't outrageous. The visible area was small and neat, but I couldn't see any use for it. Probably the size of an apple watch, just floating in the corner of your right eye. The demo was walking directions and talking to alexa. They didn't sell because they weren't very useful and were very expensive.
Maybe Google's current strategy is the correct one - keep developing the tech for well-scoped, very niche applications until some day the tech might be good enough for general purpose applications. I think that day is still far away.
I think a big issue with wearable computers will be input devices. I have trained with the 1-handed chorded keyboards, such as the twiddler, and am up to 30 wpm, but its not easy and I don't think people will be willing to make that kind of adjustment. Even so, you still have to then constantly carry the input device around and have it in your hand. A "hands free" input device like the ring, or an improved Myo style band, will still be needed for any wearable that is used in a non-private setting, where voice commands are not ideal (unless its a throat mic).
 Pic of ring controller via gizmodo https://o.aolcdn.com/images/dimse/5845cadfecd996e0372f/94746...
The interface is roughly 6 lines of white on transparent text/menus/icons, with some "apps" occasionally being more graphical and having larger graphics/arrows. The display is basically a bunch of low power lasers being projected onto a weird thing embedded in the glass of the right lens and getting reflected into your eye. If alignment was wrong it couldn't do anything. It felt more like those vector CRT displays like from an old arcade game, where instead of pixels of varying intensity in a grid there is an electron beam just drawing lines and simple shapes.
There was definitely no ability to project a screen. It was not like google glass at all.
Platform-wise, it was more like an imaginary gen-0.5 smartwatch that was locked into a handful of baked in apps and notifications. It had to be tethered to your phone to work. It could only integrate with select apps and services: Spotify for music, Alexa for a voice assistant, gcal for calendar. I'm probably missing some.
It had some morning glance sort of thing that showed you your commute and the weather and maybe some news?
It had it's own walking navigation system that worked... okay. Granted I tried that out pretty shortly after that feature launched, and only used in Dublin when I was on a trip where I would actually be walking a fair bit. It never inspired confidence that it would notify me properly of a turn, and I tend to not really need directions shown to me all the time anyways, so I stopped bothering after using it twice.
Notifications was about the only thing I got out of it when I was using it, and it was not the best experience. The time between knowing I got a notification and it showing me was long enough that I never got over the muscle memory of either pulling out my phone or looking at my pebble (if I was wearing it) when I felt the vibrarion from either.
That brings me to the hardest part for me, the lack of confidence in the projection. When I pressed on the ring controller to activate it, or heard a sound indicating something should be on screen, I couldn't be sure that it wasn't just being slow or if it was somehow misaligned. It got misaligned often, and when it's not in just the right alignment with your eye the display is not visible. I eventually got some of those silicone things you put on stems to hold glasses on your face properly and even then they could still get out of alignment.
EDIT: totally forgot, a cool part was how you contorlled it, with a ring that had a little 5way joystick on it. This would have been cool if it was more responsive, but it suffered from the general interface sluggishness that did not inspire confidence.
This story is as old as America itself. The bank that is now JP Morgan Chase, the sixth largest bank in the world, was started by Aaron Burr's fundraise for a ripoff water supply system in Manhattan. He collected $2mm, used $100,00 on the stated purpose and the rest to start a bank.
These are our role models, where the point is to get money by any means and try to make a profit on that before needing to forfeit the money or your freedom.
Talk about co-founder infighting!
I think you means "This story is as old as Canada, itself." North was Canadian.
Also, the story is older than America. It goes way back to medieval Europe, at least. Possibly farther back than that in the Middle East, but that's not an area of history I know much about.
If power can be figured out in small form factor the end results could really be incredible. After trying out the demo AR glasses to my family members company(5 years ago) it was one of the most incredible things I have ever seen and felt like sci-fi come true.
I imagine system performance would be another early issue. Again in the example of first Apple Watch, it was nothing more than a display to render the paired iPhone's content. It wasn't until the 3rd generation that it became more standalone and able to function without a "co-device".
Come to think of it in the case of the rumored Apple Glass, its rollout/development might be similar to that of the Watch. First couple of generations are heavily, if not entirely, dependent on the iPhone for data processing. But eventually it'll come into its own - thanks to the strength of Apple's custom silicon development.
Interestingly, there didn’t seem to be a similar backlash against the Snapchat smart glasses which came later, despite their raison d’etre being photos/video. (Cheaper? Better marketing? Or different time/social context?)
Anyway, I don’t think it’s a given at all that smart glasses will always come with a social stigma - they probably won’t, as long as the original Google Glasses missteps/bad luck is avoided.
IIRC the price point was on the right side of a pay-day impulse buy, but Im not going to spend the money to get to vancouver to spend that money.
I'm not arguing anything about whether this is right or wrong (particularly in this case), but I believe this is also uncommon outside of tech.
There are probably more analogous situations in e.g. law or sales, where you still have a clear employee relationship with the company but compensation is may not be a vanilla salary.
North was a scam, and was about to be bought by patent trolls. This was a legal move by alphabet. They pretty much paid ransom to the North (Thalmic labs) founders to not be harassed by trolls later on.
I guess it at least shows that google haven't abandoned google-glass entirely (or their legal dept doesn't know they aren't in the glass business any more, i wouldn't doubt it)
Do you have inside information? The announcement implies acquihire. You don't explicitly say where people will be working for you if they're not going to be working for you.
> They'll join the Google team based in Kitchener-Waterloo, Canada—North’s hometown and an area with impressive tech talent. We're excited to welcome our new colleagues, and committed to the growing global tech community of Kitchener-Waterloo.
I've been waiting since forever. This is the only "smart" tech I've been so interested in. I already wear glasses, why not make them more useful?
Meanwhile watches get in the way of using keyboards and interacting with things, and you constantly take them off. Can't use them if your hand is busy either, like holding a drink. They're not as convenient as they seem.
Not sitting at a desk with a Mountain Dew in one hand and your mouse in the other. Synced desktop notification or smartphone on a stand seems like a better option for that.
I do a lot of walking downtown and half the time I have a cup of coffee in my hands or something else. Responding or interacting with the watch becomes impossible without two hands or I guess talking into it.
You need two hands to use a watch: one to bring it your face, and the other to interact with it.
Believe me, I want to use a smart watch; it feels like every kid would have wanted one back in the day. But when you think about them, they're not as useful as they seem due to many factors, and I think most people get that, because you don't see many people wearing them. They're definitely still a niche product.
But how many people wear glasses? What if they did more than help you just see better? How many people might drop contacts for that value, even? (Some people wear glasses over contacts purely for fashion.)
You don't have to do anything to see information in your always-present glasses, and you only need one hand to operate them. Alternatively, a mic would be closer to your mouth so that's more functional than bringing your hand to your face to give commands as well.
That's where you're missing the point. Smart watches have become popular because of the fitness component, and have also shown great versatility beyond that, including invoking a voice assistant and screening notifications.
I haven't taken my phone off silent in years, I will only have my watch on vibrate and a select few apps filtered to send notifications to my phone. The rest are not of immediate consequence, so I don't get them "in real time". Plus, if the watch is off my wrist, it vibrates my desk just like a phone. Notifications are dismissed automatically after a timeout, or a button to dismiss.
I find my glasses come off for far more serious activities than my watch. I never intended for my watch to be a phone replacement where I can respond to messages, but it's sure good at letting me know a message needs my attention.
A few things a watch offers you while lifting, specifically:
- rep counting
- heart rate monitoring
- music, without a phone, by pairing a BT headset directly to the watch
A few more things smart watches are great at:
- forget your wallet in the car? Contactless payments. Or, buy a bottle of water in the middle of a run or bike.
- sleep tracking
- leave your phone in your pocket more and enjoy life
- don't even bring your phone on a run, built in GPS tracks for you
- don't even bring your phone on a bike, same reason
- built in topo maps for hiking
When you think about it, smart watches are /far/ more useful than they seem because of all the tech and sensors packed into a device that (potentially) lasts days at a time. And I think most people get that, which is why smart watches are already a huge industry.
They repeatedly refused to offer an option to disable photo sync, even when they added a whole settings bundle to manage the sync settings. (Essentially, they started letting you tell it to upload photos even over cellular data, but still neglected to add a "just don't upload the photos automatically" option.)
From a customer perspective I would pay $1000 today for a pair of smart prescription sunglasses that could link to my fitness tracker as an ANT+ extended display and show a few key data field including speed, distance, heart rate, and power. That would be super helpful for racing and structured training.
From the blog at bynorth.com ... I guess that's one way to show your appreciation!
It seemed like they had cool products, and it's too bad to see it bought up by an advertising/spyware company with a history of killing products.
It'd be nice if Google was somehow prohibited from snapping up even more companies while under numerous investigations for antitrust during a global pandemic, but I think that attempted legislation has fallen flat.
- Phones? Google buys Motorolla and HTC's smartphone division.
- Watches? Google buys Fitbit and Fossil (the smartwatch side)
- AR? Google buys North
I don't know why Google's Product team gets the prestige it does, when the last successful product it _didn't_ buy was GMail.
Wow, it sounds like "IoT" is getting a makeover. Will this become the new more palatable vogue term for total immersion in corporate-owned wireless electronics?
Nothing against North in particular, I just think that it's a recipe for disaster to have every minute of a human's waking life tracked by Google. Color me a cynic, but I'm not optimistic about the future of this technology, especially in the hands of big G.
That's not to say that I wouldn't love to see either of those happen. I'd be willing to donate my soon-to-be-a-brick Focals to someone that has a history of reverse engineering weird embedded ARM devices. Ideally you'd get it before the end of July so you can have a hope of sniffing bluetooth traffic.
I do feel bad for the employees whose options are now worthless though, and even worse if they'd already exercised them.
are they blue because they're all from advertisers?
I was a little surprised to hear that the acquisition is going to turn my Focals into a pair of chunky-looking, prescriptionless eyeglasses, and the carrying case into an alcantera-lined brick. I would like to recycle these, but I'm not sure how. The post-acquisition FAQ only seems to cover what's happening to their products/services, how we're going to get refunds (wasn't expecting that), and how to wipe my Focals.
My main concern in recycling these is the highly integrated batteries. The Focals, the ring, and the case all have batteries that I can't access and can't see, and I don't see too many screw holes (though I admittedly haven't looked). Given what I've seen of e-waste recycling processes, I don't see anyone taking the time to carefully opening these up to get the batteries out, and I doubt they would try cracking them open like a crab to get at the battery, given the risk of possibly breaking a battery or cutting onesself on something sharp.
Ideally, I would be able to just ship them my Focals and they would take care of recycling properly, but providing instructions on how to remove the battery or the types of facilities that would be capable of recycling these things would be a start.
Also, I'd like to make a request of all of you: if you are or are ever involved with a startup that is making pretty, highly-integrated devices, please have a plan on how to recycle your devices when they inevitably turn to bricks. Hell, make it part of your acquisition message so customers won't just throw them in the trash (or blindly throw them into the single-stream recycling expecting it to get handled there and have it end up back in the trash) and dump more lithium into landfills.
Isn't this just a classic acquihire?
I'm sure it will be on Our Incredible Journey soon.
This has been military, sci-fi and video game HUD territory for so long, but that can change.