Uh oh, now she’sgone and ruined everything.
Right now I’m wearing Focals.
They’re smart glasses made bya company called North.
They start at $600.
I’ve been wearing them for the lastcouple weeks and here are my thoughts.
The basic idea is that these areglasses with a tiny projector built into one of their arms.
It beams an image onto a circular filmon the right lens which bounces it back into your eyeball.
As a result, you see an image.
It’s positioned in your line of sight, it’s full color, it’s 110 pixels wide.
There’s a built in microphoneand speaker but there’s no camera.
All Focals does actually is verysimple when you think about it.
We’re adding additional rays of light toall the light coming in from the world.
The power of the displayand Focals is incredibly low.
Looking at a bright screen for examplewould have more light going in your eye than looking at Focals.
These have a lot in commonwith Intel’s failed Vaunt smart glasses.
In fact, North received significantinvestment from Intel Capital and acquired the Vaunt’s IPand patents last year.
Amazon is also a backer of North.
The main reason Focals stand out inthis space is North’s focus on making smart glasses that you can wearand not look really bad.
I kind of looked at my own personal barfor how this needs to be, like what would it take for me to wear this.
Which I think they mostly succeeded at, or at least almost succeeded at.
But some limitationsare immediately obvious.
For example I usually wear glassesbut North could not accommodate my prescription so I had to get clear lensesin the Focals and wear them with contacts.
That’s a huge deal.
And if you do get prescription lensesit adds $200 to the price.
Plus to buy a pair of Focals you haveto get your head 3D scanned at one of North stores, of which there are only two, or catch them at one of their pop-up locations.
And when you put them onit’s immediately obvious why that is.
If I move the glasses even acouple millimeters in any direction the image totally disappears.
But when you put them on they generallystay in place so it wasn’t a huge deal.
And they are heavier than normalglasses but I surprisingly didn’t really mind it.
After a few days I couldbarely notice the extra weight.
You control them via a ring with atiny joystick that you put on your index finger.
And I actually hate it alot less than I thought I would.
It’s better than having to reach upand touch your glasses to interact with them, or talk to them.
But you are committing to wearing aplastic ring on your finger all the time.
North says the battery will last up to18 hours and it comes with this charging case that adds three daysworth of charge to them.
For me it was more like twelve hoursbut it will obviously depend on how much you’re playing with them.
The image I see is bright, even outside inthe sun and if I hold out my hand at arm’s length it’s veryroughly the size of my palm.
Which is to say, not very big.
But you’re not meant to be watchingmovies on these and with 110 pixels square you wouldn’t want to anyway.
Focals are for brief pop-ups of importantinformation and the image is big enough to do that.
That said, the image was alwaysa little blurry for me.
I could read text fine but there wasenough blur and ghosting for it to be noticeable and annoying.
Also when you look directly at theimage it is not a great look.
You configure Focals using an app onyour phone and anything that pops up on your phone canget pushed to Focals.
But right now beyond thattheir functionality is really limited.
But there are some things itcan do that are genuinely useful.
There’s basic stuff like thetime, the weather, transit information.
Amazon Alexa is built in.
Alexa, what do youthink of these Focals? I don’t have an opinion on that.
They have hit or miss walking directions, you can read an e-mail but not respond to it and there seemsto be a character limit.
You can see news headlines but notclick through to the full article.
Text messages will pop up andyou get a list of context-specific auto-replies, emoji and gifs that you canrespond with or you can dictate a response using the built-in mic.
Realistically, being able to read a textwithout taking my phone out of my pocket was probably the mostuseful thing about wearing these.
But there are a couple importantcaveats when it comes to texts.
First, there’s noiMessage integration.
I use an iPhone so if I replyto someone using my Focals, it takes that message, it uploads it to North’s servers andthen sends it back to me and the person I’ve replied tofrom a totally new number.
That’s probably Apple’s fault ultimately but asit stands I’m not going to use that.
With Android it’s not an issue, it uses your regular number.
The other thing is that any text youget while your phone is connected to Focals gets uploaded to North’s serversto be analyzed and generate those context-specific auto-replies.
North says that these messages areall encrypted and deleted from their servers afterwards but it stillmakes me a little uncomfortable.
Since launching, North has been pushingout regular updates to Focals.
They just added Spotify control and flightinfo, so they do seem to slowly be getting more useful.
Focals are meant to be smart glasses thatare both useful and not a burden to wear and they do come closerto that than anything else I’ve seen.
I’m not gonna be a regular Focals userbut I also don’t have or want a smartwatch, which would give youthe same kind of information.
And that said, yesterday after wearing them allday I took them off to go to lunch and was annoyed when I had totake my phone out of my pocket to read a text.
That is ridiculous, but it’s true.
I don’t know if a world wearing Focalsis a better one but considering how early days this tech is and that it onlytook half a week for my brain to expect their convenience, I suspect we’llfind out soon enough whether we want to or not.
Ultimately, Focals are fun to use andlook normal enough that you’re not going to get stared at but thenovelty wore off relatively quick for me.
They just don’t do enough for me towant to put these on my face, especially since they can’thandle my prescription.
If you’re someone who gets a lot ofalerts on your phone and you need to stay on top of those things whiledoing other things, Focals might help.