North Focals Review: Stealthy, Stylish Smart Glasses

Contents

Smart glasses have had a difficult time in generalizing. Even with the backing of major brands, attempts like Google Glass have not managed to open the market, partly due to its alienating aspect. North's smart glasses take care of this, fit and work like traditional eyeglasses (prescription glasses start shipping in spring this year). In addition, his addiction to technology is his little secret with an augmented reality (AR) screen that only the user can see. The commitment to stealth continues with Loop, a plastic ring that allows you to control your glasses discreetly through your five-way joystick.

Currently, Focals is only available after two in-person adaptations (for more information on North's detailed adjustment process, see our first practical contact with Focals) at its stores in Brooklyn, New York or Toronto, Canada. The trip is tempting as Focals cross a huge barrier of smart glasses by offering functionality in a way that has a good (but not perfect) chance of going through normal glasses. However, while we enjoy applications like Amazon Alexa and Weather, more applications and better image quality would make the price of $ 999 / $ 1,200 CAD (with or without prescription lenses) more forgivable.


Focals Smart glasses and loop ring specifications

Processor

Qualcomm APQ8009w with Arm Cortex A7 (32 bits) at 1.09GHz and Qualcomm Adreno 304 GPU
Compatibility of the accompanying application Android 5.0 and newer
iPhone 5S and newer with iOS 11+ and newer [19659021] Resolution
Approximately 200×200 (varies by frame)
Sensors 9-axis IMU, ambient light sensor , proximity sensor
Audio Integrated microphone, speaker
Connectivity Focal smart glasses: Bluetooth 4.2
Loop ring: Bluetooth LE
Dimensions (Length x Width x Bridge) ] 164 x 132-160 x 16-22mm
6.5 x 5.2-6.3 x 0.6-0.9 inches [19659021] Battery
Focals: 700 mAh
Loop: 0.8mAh
Weight Focals: 0.16 poun ds (72.57g)
Lasso: 0.02 pounds (9.07g)
Extra [19659] 020] Charging case
Power adapter
Microfiber fabric
Sunglasses for sunglasses with clip
Warranty Warranty 1 year
Price $ 999 USD / $ 1,299 CAD

The spotlights use a Qualcomm APQ8009w (SoC) on-chip system, which runs on four Arm Cortex A7 CPU cores at a clock speed of up to 1.09 GHz. The SoC is marketed for smart watches, with features such as Bluetooth and WiFi connectivity and a Qualcomm Adreno 304 GPU.

Focals designed by North with IP55 certification in mind. This standard requires resistance to dust and the ability to resist water from a nozzle. That means that seals must withstand splashing without breaking. North does not recommend using them in the shower or pool.

The Loop is made for IP66 certification and, therefore, is more resistant to dust and water than lenses. That specification requires the ability to handle "thick sea water or water projected from jets". North says that the Loop is suitable for washing hands but not for swimming. It is available in 10 sizes from 6 to 15.

] ] ] 19659044] The spotlights are by far the most modern smart glasses I have seen. Many smart glasses and mixed reality (MR) headphones have tried to improve their appearance and public perception, reducing the size and incorporating more traditional designs. Some, like the Vuzix Blade and nreal light that we saw at CES, reduce the appearance of the computer on your face by reflecting the designs of sunglasses.

However, the bulbs are in their own category, they look like normal prescription glasses and come in several styles: classic or round in black, hawksbill or gray vanish (our review sample is classic in turtle). They could almost go through normal lenses if it were not for their thick arms and the small projector near the right lens that is visible to people who look at it.

The spotlights are made mainly of cast aluminum and Swiss Grilamid, which is supposed to be a strong and flexible polymer, but which retains the shape. That is probably why the Focals are so flexible. I can hold them by the arms and twist them to alter the alignment of the lens or pull the arms and separate them quite. It is also assumed that the material will make them more comfortable in the long term.

Copper accents connect the rubber nose pads, and both arms are folded in half thanks to the stainless steel springs.

Speaking of those arms, the halves closest to the temples are quite thick. At their thickest point, they are about twice the width of my normal glasses. This is not an automatic warning that you have a computer machine in your face, but the Focals look thicker than your average pair of glasses.

The left arm of my review sample is black nude on the outside, while the inside subtly reads "Focals by NORTH" near the temple and "CLASS 1 LASER PRODUCT" near the point. The right arm is also naked on the outside.

The interior, however, holds the projector with holographic screen, which uses a screen technology called retinal projection to project photons, or raster graphics, onto the retina. When the projector is activated, it is not visible from the outside. Projects images only in the right eye. This advanced retina display also requires precise measurements in the adjustment process mentioned above.

the lower part of the right arm is a small square area for connecting the charger, a small speaker / microphone and the power button.

Loop controller ring comes in black and is mainly made of polycarbonate with gold-plated load contacts. You will hear a click in the glasses every time you use the joystick, unless you turn off all the sounds.

Both the Focals and the Loop are charged through the included case, which has a USB-C port on the back to plug into the included power adapter. The adapter comes in soft gray to match the case, and can also serve as a portable charger for the devices. The case, a smooth and soft gray felt-like box, is larger than a traditional spectacle case. Your practical internal lights light up when your devices are charging.

The bulbs are not only seen as prescription glasses, but will be sold with prescription lenses (-4 to + 2SPH and 0 to -2CYL) this spring. North will not offer eye exams, so you'll have to know your prescription in advance. This is a bit inconvenient because it means one more appointment and / or a phone call if you do not know your prescription in advance (more information about availability and insurance in the Availability section below).

My most comfortable glasses in history [19659059] I used my Focals and Loop in California for a week, meeting with friends, having dinner and going to the beach. They kept tight in my face, even more than my real glasses, which tend to slide down my nose. North has a two-part adjustment process, which includes a scan and face adjustment in 3D, followed by some final physical adjustments, such as in the nose pads, when lifting them. This, in fact, led to a couple of specifications that fit perfectly, perhaps my specifications more comfortable. This is also useful to keep the AR visible in the command without having to adjust the glasses.

Weighing less than a quarter pound, Focals did not feel heavy on my face. Without a doubt, they are the lightest and most cozy XR glasses I have tried so far.

  • Even more versatility, North includes a pair of sunglasses with clip-on sunglasses in each Focals. They are available in black with gold or black edges and aim to block 100 percent of UVA and UVB rays.

    And the Loop, although a little thick and plastic for my taste and not for the style of jewelry that I normally use, I do not bother the long-term hands. However, occasionally I pushed the joystick involuntarily when performing common tasks like picking up things from the ground.

    Focals Applications

    Focals users should download North's complementary application on iOS or Android. The application is simple and easy to use. Displays the status of the Focals and Loop battery and allows you to calibrate the Focal screen. It's also where you log in to Amazon for Alexa and Uber, store up to seven contacts to send text messages with ease and two locations for easy or Ubers addresses and contact support.

    Keep in mind that your smartphone also has to connect to the glasses via Bluetooth times and allow location tracking and numerous other privacy permissions. North says that Focals and Loop can work up to 9 feet (2.7 m) from your phone.

    Start screen and notifications

    The Focals home screen appears every time you press the Loop joystick. It is a colorful display of the date and time, and also has options to adjust the volume to four settings, including turning off, activating or deactivating the sound (somewhat redundant) and switching between three brightness settings. If you have a meeting coming soon in your smartphone's calendar, here is a reminder below the time.

    Scrolling left displays the notifications screen, which shows the new notifications that reach your phone, including text messages, emails, reminders, and anything else that appears on your phone. In general, you can read the first lines of an incoming text or email here; however, you can not click on any link or view the media. There is an option to delete all notifications at once.

    In regards to utility, this was pretty useful anywhere. I was able to do things like read messages while I was online for lunch, holding my wallet in one hand and a bottle of water in the other. I was able to determine if the incoming notifications were important enough to leave my food (they rarely were).

    Amazon Alexa

    Alexa is always on your Call and call with Focals. It appears every time you hold the joystick, so it is quite easy to accidentally summon the voice assistant.

    Alexa in Focals does what you expect. You can answer questions, tell jokes and list nearby restaurants, speaking through the loudspeaker on your right arm. However, it loses some capabilities in Focals, such as the reproduction of music and radio or the ability to display images or videos.

    But Alexa also works together with other applications of Focals. For example, I asked Alexa where the nearest shopping center was, I saw a list, I pushed the Loop joystick on the nearest one and saw an option for directions or called an Uber to go there.

    Alexa listens pretty well through Focals. I never had a problem with television or other background noise. However, it usually took at least 30 seconds to respond, sometimes more. And sometimes he ignored me, with the blue circle blinking for 30 seconds or more before disappearing without any result or error notification.


    Uber

    you can call an Uber in Focals by selecting the option of one of the two locations you can store in the Places section of the smartphone app. If you go elsewhere, you can go to the Places menu in the Focal and use the voice command to write an address.

    Regardless of how you call Uber, the Focal will keep you up to date, showing updates like when. your car is approaching and your ETA.

    Text Messages

    You can send text messages with Focals using pre-written or voice-to-text responses, either by replying to an incoming message or by initiating a new text for one of the seven contacts that you can Favorite in the application smart phone Focals. You can also read your text message history, up to 12 inbound and outbound messages, in Focals. Again, you can not click on the links or read images. Instead, it will say, "This message has means, check it on your phone."

    But there is an annoying warning for iOS users like me: due to some restrictions that Apple implemented to protect its messaging application, Focals sends all the text messages from a different phone number When sending text messages to someone with Focals for the first time, a text message (of a number other than mine) is sent automatically saying: "Hi, it's Scharon Harding. I'm sending you a message from my Focals by North. "I would also start a new thread on my phone, my phone would turn off every time someone sent me text messages and every time I texted Focals, as if Focals were also I sent text messages to my phone, which caused my phone to turn off at least twice and a more messy inbox.Android users will not have this problem because Focals can synchronize directly with the Android messaging application. [19659078] This behavior also brought some interesting answers, as you can see.Among others, my always cautious father refused to answer any text of this strange number of Focals.I was not surprised Besides that the number is unknown, thanks to the function of self-correction , I could never send a text message with the words "This is Scharon", only "This is Sharon" or "This is scharon".

    I also luch a little voice to text. The words dragged on the screen much slower than I speak. He self-corrected in front of me, then offered an option to send when he thought he had finished speaking. But sometimes I have a lot to say in the texts and I do not know what it will be like when it starts. And seeing the Focals write and edit my words, he threw me out.

    In addition, the Focals screen automatically turns off after about 8 seconds to prevent the AR from becoming intrusive and preserve battery life. Sometimes, if I stop too long between words, the screen went off and I would have to start my text again. However, often this happened in less than 8 seconds, which forced me to restart my messages many times.

    Although it was not impeccable, I was still impressed with the listening comprehension of the Focals here and I also liked how Incoming message alerts paired with an emoji are based on the content of the messages. I liked seeing an unimpressed smiling face next to some of my mother's texts.

    If you do not care about the limitations of previously written answers or the delicate behavior of voice-to-text technology, the Focals text message application can certainly help. with multitasking

    Calendar

    Focals is synchronized with your phone's calendar to show upcoming events of the day. You can only see today's schedule in the Focals. You can not click on an address in an event or add new appointments through smart glasses.

    Instructions

    ]

    [194590008]

    Focals has step-by-step and compass-based directions, powered by custom Mapbox maps, on The Places menu. You can store two addresses that will always be displayed in Places, which allows you to get quick instructions or an Uber, in the smartphone app. The Places menu also automatically shows a nearby point of interest. Alternatively, you can enter an address with voice command.

    Instructions for use while driving are not recommended.

    Weather

    Weather The application shows you the current weather in your location. The scroll down shows the current time, plus three more, "A stern", "Eva", "Night" and "Tomorrow" (tomorrow), depending on the current time of the day. You can not check the weather for any other day or hour.

    Like most of the weather applications I've tried, the Focalis Meteorology app does not seem entirely accurate. At one point, I could see that it was raining, and even Alexa confirmed it, but Focal simply claimed "fog."

    Battery Status

    When you scroll to the right, you can see the status of the Focals and Loop battery at any time, shown in individual percentages.

    Game potential

    There are currently no games for the Focals, plus a beta title that I have to try. In Jumping Game, you have a cow jump one by one of the colored trunks pushing the joystick of the Loop. The game demonstrated the kind of simple, though colorful and potentially addictive games that the Focals could endure in the future.

    However, the Focals warmed up after a short time playing this simple game. After 10 minutes, the right arm felt warm to the touch. Although it was a bit hot on my face, it was not so hot that I needed to remove them.

    Image quality

    The most impressive part of Focals is that nobody will know when they are using applications, since the AR screen is only visible to the user.

    It works by creating red, green and blue light that is manipulated to make the text and images sent by the Focals projector. Next, there is a holographic lens in the right eye that is embedded with a transparent film designed to interact only with red, green, and blue wavelengths. Everything else happens through. According to North, "when our specific wavelengths of light hit the transparent film, it acts like a mirror and bounces the light back to your eye, placing the image directly in your line of sight where only you can see it."

    The first thing I noticed about the Focals screen is the bright colors. Like an ice cream parlor, the AR is filled with bright roses, blues, yellows and greens. Never a boring notification here. It makes things even more fun when adding emojis for incoming notifications. Even when activating the screen, which lasts about a second, you get a smooth animation, with time going up in degraded effect and color.

    In the sun, at night or with the clip for sunglasses, the image remained bright and bold. but occasionally I saw images of ghosts, or double vision. For me, this happened occasionally on the inside near sunny windows. You would see a light green reflection of the screen to the right side. North told me that this is the result of green light that bounces off a lens layer destined for red or blue light and that tends to occur in darker environments. However, reducing the brightness to a minimum usually eliminated the effect.

    The biggest problem, however, was the flicker effect I experienced. The images always seemed to move very slightly, similar to a CRT monitor. This impaired the clarity of the screen, which was still legible but a touch difficult to see for more than a couple of seconds, especially for the text. North told me that this was probably caused because the frequency of updating my lenses was too low. After receiving a replacement pair, the image seemed sharper but at times it looked like it was shaking a bit. You may be more sensitive to the effect than others.

    The image quality remained fairly constant in different environments, except when I looked directly from a sunny window (without the snaps on). With so much light hitting my eyes, a text on the left side faded in and out of visibility when reading text messages or the weather of the day.

    Battery life

    The North says that the bulbs last up to 18 hours and the Loop lasts up to three days with "intermittent use". As mentioned, you can always check the status of the Focals and Loop in the complementary application or by scrolling to the right in the smart glasses.

    I used the Focals instead of my phone as often as possible, which meant a lot of text messages and reading notifications, checking the weather and directions at least once and playing a game for at least 5 minutes, with the maximum brightness and volume. They lasted from 7 to 10 hours a day, while the Loop survived a pinch for 3 days before needing a recharge.

    As mentioned above, the Focals and Loop case is also your charger. It takes up to 2 hours to load simultaneously. The case is also fully charged in four hours, for use as a portable charger. It is assumed that a fully charged battery case lasts three full charges, but mine never lasted two full loads of Focals alone (not the Loop). I would not recommend going on a weekend trip without the power adapter.

    Heat

    After 2 minutes of continuous use, the Focals were hot to the touch. After 5 minutes, I felt a soft warmth on my face. Again, this was not hot enough to make me take off my glasses, but it was still annoying. Most of the heat was in the right arm, especially in the upper part (the part that does not touch the face) next to the temple.

    After playing with the Focals for 5 continuous minutes with maximum brightness and volume, the hottest point of the right arm it was 44 degrees centigrade (111.2 degrees Fahrenheit).

    Availability

    Focals require two personal accessories to ensure that the glasses fit your face and that the AR is positioned correctly for your eye. Because of this, you must be able to physically access one of the two North stores (Brooklyn or Toronto) twice. North is working on the expansion, but we do not know when or where we can expect additional showrooms.

    The lights cost $ 999 with or without prescription lenses. Those who get prescriptions can use their current insurance plan / provider to help pay, North told me. The prices will depend on the provider / insurance plan of the client.

    Conclusion

    Spotlights are worth a visit if you are ready to wear smart glasses. They are discreet, with AR you can only see them, and they also look pretty close to normal glasses. There is a possibility that people confuse them with normal glasses or, with the clip included in the lenses, sunglasses.

    But a lot of what you pay is that aspect. In terms of applications, Focals has the minimum, but I would like to see more. Control over music, a video streaming application, a voice taker to notes or even some games would make the $ 999 specs more attractive. While that price is in line with competitors, you can still get a high-end laptop for that amount, so the more functionality, the better.

    Among the current applications of Focals, there are some small but notable limitations, such as text messages from iPhone users that are sent from a different number and the inability to click on links or media or view the calendar or the Climate for the next days. The glasses usually alert you when you have an incoming / missed call, but a couple of times my review unit did not. The Focals design is so good that we expect more applications to arrive, or at least that Apple allows them to send text messages correctly.

    Image quality also has room to improve. In addition to the occasional ghost images, two of my review samples showed readable content but with a slightly unstable look, such as a CRT monitor, which makes the particular text a bit irritating with a soft and unwanted blur.

    But if you've been waiting for a pair of smart glasses that offer a function without erasing your fashion credential, there's currently no better option than the Focals. The mandatory loop controller can be seen as a load, but it is a small price to pay for subtlety. If you're willing to pay the required premium price for smart glasses and can get to Brooklyn or Toronto, Focals promises you the best style, a user-friendly and easy to use (but basic) experience and an excellent fit.

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