Alphabet is reportedly in the final stages of acquiring AR smart glasses maker North in a deal worth around $180 million, according to Business Insider.

Google AR Glasses
Business Insider Intelligence

North had been working toward launching the Focals 2.0, the second generation of its AR glasses designed to look like regular glasses. However, to expedite the development of the Focals 2.0, North pooled all of its resources toward the development of the glasses, which meant that it stopped selling the original Focals. North's revenues therefore dried up, per 9to5Google, and despite raising more funding, North began looking for a buyer in early 2020. 

Acquiring North would enable Google to launch and attempt to popularize AR glasses, following its attempt to do so between 2013 and 2015 with Google Glass — here are a few reasons why this go-round could be more successful: 

  • North placed significant emphasis on making AR glasses more discreet — Google Glass were conspicuous and never became socially acceptable as a result. People who wore Google Glass headsets became colloquially known as "Glassholes," reflecting the public discomfort with the product. The headset allowed users to discreetly tune out the real world, which made many people uncomfortable in interacting with Google Glass wearers. Many gyms, workplaces, and restaurants banned Google Glass because they also allowed for hands-free recording, which couldn't easily be detected by those in close proximity. By contrast, North's Focals are designed to be indistinguishable from corrective eyewear — this could help diminish the extent to which the products stick out and elicit public scrutiny of wearers. However, even less detectable AR glasses face social adoption barriers in that they allow users to discreetly use technology in a way that would still make social interactions uncomfortable.
  • The use cases for AR have expanded significantly since 2013, and Google is joined by other tech titans in attempting to leverage the technology. Apple, Facebook, Amazon, and Microsoft are all building out their AR capabilities in an attempt to capture the emerging market. Amazon, for instance, offers AR to help customers virtually place furnishings in their homes through smartphones, while Microsoft works with healthcare providers to give clinicians visualization tools through its HoloLens AR headset. Though not every use case would be directly applicable to AR glasses users, the widespread investment in AR will help expand use cases for the technology, which were limited when Google Glass first came out.

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