North Focals Review: Stealth and Stylish Smart Glasses

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Editor's Note: This article was originally published on February 1, 2019. Updated September 16, 2019 to reflect software updates and features added since then.

  

Smart glasses have a hard time becoming the mainstream. Even with the support of big brands, efforts like Google Glass have failed to open up the market, in part because of its alienating appearance. Northern Smart Focusing Sunglasses overcome this by viewing, installing, and working like traditional prescription glasses (prescription glasses start shipping this spring). Plus, their tech addiction is their little secret with an augmented reality (AR) screen that can only be seen by the user. The commitment to continue in silence with Loop, a plastic ring that allows you to silently control the glasses through a five-way joystick.

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Pro

  • Only users can see the AR screen
  • Looks and works like stylish prescription glasses
  • Control the menu through the included plastic ring.
  • Perfect fit, thanks to the fitting integrity
  • Easy to use apps like Spotify, Amazon Alexa, Uber, weather and direction
  • Included clip-on sunglasses lens provides flexibility

Cons

  • Image quality can be better
  • The calendar only shows today's activities.
  • IPhone text must go through a different number than the one you have
  • The right arm is heated near the temple

Verdict

Focals offers a style that is very comfortable, fitting and with unprecedented style and design for smart glasses. It has basic applications such as SMS, addresses and calendar, in addition to Amazon Alexa But the appearance of AR may be more acute.

Currently, the focal points are only available after two direct purposes (for more information on the detailed installation process from the North, see our first show with Focals) at their stores in Brooklyn, New York or Toronto, Canada. This journey is tempting when the focal points cross a large barrier of smart glasses by offering functionality in a way that has a good (but not perfect) chance of going through ordinary glasses. However, while we do enjoy apps like Spotify and Weather, better image quality will make the official $ 599 / $ 799 CAD more forgivable.

Smart focus glasses and circular ring specs

Processor

Qualcomm APQ8009w with Arm Cortex A7 (32-bit) at 1.09GHz and Qualcomm Adreno 304 GPU
Companion App CompatibilityAndroid 5.0 and newer
iPhone 5S and newer with iOS 11+ and newer
ResolutionAround 200 × 200 (varies according to the picture)
SensorIMU 9 axis, ambient light sensor, proximity sensor
AudioIntegrated microphone and speaker.
ConnectivityFocus smart glasses: Bluetooth 4.2
Ring Circle: Bluetooth LE
Measurement (Length x Width x Bridge)164 x 132-160 x 16-22mm
6.5 x 5.2-6.3 x 0.6-0.9 inch
BatteryFocus: 700 mAh
Loop: 0.8mAh
WeightFocal: 0.16 pound (72.57g)
Tie: 0.02lb (9.7g)
AdditionsCharging case
Power adapter
Microfiber cloth
Clip-On Sunglasses Lens
Warranty1 year old
Price (start) No Prescription: $ 599 USD / $ 799 CAD
With a prescription: $ 799 / $ 999 CAD

Focal uses the Qualcomm APQ8009w system-on-chip (SoC), which runs on four Arm Cortex A7 CPU cores at clock speeds of up to 1.09GHz. SoC is marketed for smart watches, with features like Bluetooth and WiFi connectivity and a Qualcomm Adreno 304 GPU.

North Focals was designed with the IP55 certification in mind. This standard requires dust resistance and the ability to retain water from the nozzle. This means that the focal points must withstand splashes without breaking. North does not recommend using it in the bathroom or pool.

The tie is made for IP66 certification and is therefore more dust and water resistant than glasses. The specifications require the ability to handle "deep sea water or spray jet water." North says the Loop is suitable for washing hands but not for swimming. It is available in 10 sizes from 6 to 15.

Design: stealthy but elegant

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So far, the focus is the most fashionable smart glasses I've ever seen. Many smart glasses and mixed reality (MR) headsets have tried to improve appearance and public perception by reducing size and featuring a more traditional design. Some, like the Vuzix Blade and the original light, reduce the appearance of your computer on the face by reflecting the designs of sunglasses.

However, the bulbs are in their own category, look just like ordinary prescription glasses, and come in a variety of styles: classic black shapes, or for additional $ 100 turtles or faded gray (our classic sample review on turtles). The round-style frame "will come soon," according to the North. Focals can almost pass through ordinary glasses if it weren't for their thick arms and a small projector near the right lens that people who see it see.

The lenses are mainly made of die-cast aluminum and Swiss Grilamid, which are supposed to be strong and flexible polymers, but still retain their shape. Perhaps that is why the focal points are so flexible. I can hold it with your arms and rotate it to alter the alignment of the lens, or I can pull and pull on the arm enough. The ingredients should also make them more comfortable in the long run.

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

Speaking of that arm, the part closest to the temple is quite thick. At their thickest point, they are approximately twice as wide as my regular glasses. This is not an automatic notification that you have a counter on your face, but Focals looks cooler than your average glasses.

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The left arm of my review sample is pale black on the outside, while the inside reads “Focals by NORTH” near the temple and “CLASS” 1 LASER PRODUCT “near the end. The right arm is also bare outside.

Inside, however, it has a holographic screen projector, which uses a display technology called retinal projection to project photons, light, or raster graphics onto the retina. When the projector is on, it is not visible from the outside. This projects the image into the right eye only. This sophisticated retina display also requires precise measurements in the aforementioned mounting process.

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At the bottom of the right arm is a small square area for connecting chargers, small speakers / microphones, and the power button.

The loop control ring is black and is primarily made of polycarbonate with gold plated charging contacts. You will hear a click on the glass every time you use the joystick, unless you turn off all sounds.

Both Focals and Loop are charged via the included case, which has a USB-C port on the back for plugging in the included power adapter. The adapter comes in plain gray to match the case, and can also double as a portable charger for the device. The case, a smooth, soft gray case, looked larger than a traditional glasses case. A handy internal light turns on when your device is charging.

The bulbs not only look like prescription glasses, but are also available with prescription lenses (-4 to + 2SPH and 0 to -2CYL) for an additional $ 200. North will not offer an eye exam, so you must know your prescription in advance. This is a disadvantage because it means one more appointment and / or a phone call if you don't know your prescription like that (more information on availability and insurance in the Availability section below).

My most comfortable glasses

I take my Focals and Loop in California for a week, meet friends, have dinner and go to the beach. They stay comfortable on my face, even more so than my real glasses, which tend to slide under my nose. North has a two-part installation process, which includes scanning and mounting a 3D face, followed by some final physical adjustments, such as the nose pads, when you pick them up. This, in fact, causes a couple of specs that are very adequate, perhaps my most comfortable spec. This also helps keep AR visible on command without having to adjust the glasses.

Weighing less than a quarter pound, Focals didn't feel heavy on my face. They are definitely the lightest and most comfortable XR glasses I've ever tried.

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For added versatility, North includes a pair of clip-on sunglasses lenses with each Focals. They are available in black with gold or black edges and are intended to block 100 percent of UVA and UVB rays.

And the Loop, although quite thick and plastic, for my taste and not for the style of jewelry I usually buy, does not bother me in the long term. However, sometimes I accidentally push the joystick when doing general tasks like getting something off the ground.

Focal application

Focals users should download North's free companion app on iOS or Android. This application is simple and easy to use. This shows the battery status of Focals and Loops and allows you to calibrate the Focal display. That's also where you come in Amazon For Alexa and Uber, save up to seven contacts to send short messages and two locations for easy directions or Ubers and contact support.

Note Your smartphone must also be connected to the glasses via Bluetooth at all times and allows location tracking and many other privacy permissions. North says that Focals and Loop can work so far. 2.7 I am on your cell phone.

Home screen and notification

North Focals Review: Stealth and Sleek Smart Glasses 8The Focals home screen appears each time you press the Loop joystick. This is a full-color date and time display, and you also have the option to adjust the volume to four settings, including turning the sound off, on or off (a little excessive) and switching between three brightness settings. If a meeting arrives soon on your smartphone calendar, a reminder will appear below the time here.

As you scroll left, a notification screen appears, displaying new notifications reaching your cell phone, including text messages, email, reminders, and anything that appears on your cell phone. You can usually read the first few lines of text or email that come here; however, you cannot click any link or view media. There is an option to remove all notifications at once.

As for its use, this is quite useful when traveling. I can do things like read online messages for lunch, hold my wallet in one hand and a bottle of water in the other. I can determine if an admission notice is important enough to place my food (rarely).

Spotify

Spotify Control is one of the best features of Focals, especially for the dense commuters of the New York subway. Without having to release or raise my hand, I can easily play / pause and replace tracks on Spotify with a loop loop (up to play / pause, left and right to change songs). If you can even do this without the Focals display on, save the battery. Moving the Joystick Loop down should also make you control the volume, but I can't get it to work with Samsung. Galaxy S10 Support in a reliable North (or good luck) app in the North will help you get better rates.

North Focals Review: Stealth and Stylish Smart Glasses 9Also disappointing is that ID feature. Focals' music, which works more or less like Shazam and should identify the song sounding loud, won't work for me either. I tried three songs, Michal FK's “Pulsar”, “DNA” Kendrick Lamar, and one song everyone should know, Britney Spears “”… Baby One More Time. "It didn't work. All I received was a "Thinking" message with no results.

Health & Fitness

Focals launches a page of one of today's most successful smartwatches, combining health-related apps, Google Fit and, if you have an Android phone, Digital Health for screen time management.

With Google Fit, there are many reasons to consider Focals as your preferred smart health device. Google Fit includes a step counter, an increase in the previous week and a calorie tracker.

Digital Health serves to increase the focus on time management spent on your cell phone. Interestingly, the Digital Health app does not count Focals time as screen time, so it can cheat using its Focals instead of its smartphone, encouraging users to use and trust their Focals more (useful for the North ).

North Focals Review: Stealth and Stylish Smart Glasses 10There is also a function that reminds you to drink water and allows you to mark how much water you have. It sounds stupid, and I don't deny it. However, it was helpful to me once when I went downstairs to have a glass of water, I was distracted by something else and was walking up the stairs without getting hydrated. The coincidence came just in time to save me from the unsuccessful trip down the stairs. Everyone should know how to drink water regularly, but if this habit is new to you, this feature may help.

Productivity

With support for Slack, EverNote, and OneNote, Focals can help you get things done. Pop-up notifications and pre-written responses or voice-to-text responses for Slack mean it's easy to do things like reply to your boss over lunch or read documents when you're on your way to a meeting with glasses. However, on the subject of clarity that I experienced, I will read nothing but emails in my Focals.

The focal rewind function allows you to record and save conversations for 30 seconds. It is very scary, because there is no light on the ring or on the glasses to tell people that you are recording. And it doesn't make much sense for the recording time to be limited to 30 seconds. Also, this only works if you are currently in a meeting where you are logged in to your calendar synchronized with Focals. And you can't get the recording until the measurement is complete, according to your schedule. At least the recording sounds … ONLY the words "that's good" aren't even recordings.

Fun and games

In the Maurice game, you make a cow jump on a colored log one by one by pressing the Loop joystick. This game is simple, but colorful and potentially addictive, and other game brands that Focals may support in the future.

However, the focal points warm up after a short time playing this simple game. After 10 minutes, the right arm feels warm to the touch. Although it was a little hot on my face, it wasn't so hot that I had to take it off.

A challenging Q&A with Focals 20 multiple-choice questions every day (The Office at the time of writing). You can see the average score (3 / / 20 today) and your score.

You can also enter the latest MLB, NBA or NHL games with updates and real-time scores with your favorite selected teams. If you're a fanatic fanatic who needs to watch game after game, your favorite smartphone app is still needed, but to quickly check scores during a date without being scolded, this is great.

Amazon Alexa

North Focals Review: Stealth and Sleek Smart Glasses 11Alexa is always available and contact Focals. It seems like every time you hold the joystick, it's easy enough to accidentally call a voice assistant.

Alexa on Focals does what you expect. You can answer questions, tell jokes, and list nearby restaurants, speak through the speaker on your right arm. However, he lost some Focal skills, such as playing music and radio or the ability to display images or videos.

But Alexa also works alongside other Focals apps. For example, I ask Alexa where the nearest mall is, I see the list that is displayed, press the Loop joystick on the closest one, and I see options for directions or I call Uber to go there.

Alexa listens pretty well through Focals. I have never had a problem with a television or other background sound. However, it generally takes at least 30 seconds to respond, sometimes longer. And sometimes it ignores me right away, with the blue circle flashing for 30 seconds or more before disappearing without notification of results or errors.

Uber

North Focals Review: Stealth and Sleek Smart Glasses 12You can call Uber in Focals by selecting an option from one of two locations that allow you to save in the Places section of the smartphone application. If you go somewhere else, you can go to the Places menu in Focals and use the voice command to write the address.

Regardless of what you call your Uber, Focals will keep you updated and show you updates like when your car and ETA arrived.

SMS

You can send text messages with Focals using pre-written or voice-to-text responses by replying to incoming messages or initiating new text messages to one of the seven contacts you can favor in the Focals smartphone application. You can also read your SMS history, up to 12 incoming and outgoing messages, on Focals. Again, you can't click the link or read the image. Instead, it will say “This message has means. Check it on your cell phone. ”

But there is an unfortunate caveat for iOS users like me: due to some restrictions Apple implemented to protect the messaging application, Focals sends all texts from different phone numbers. When texting someone with Focals the first time, they will automatically send a text message (from a different number than mine) first that says, “Hi, that's Scharon Harding. I'm sending you a message from Focals by North me. ” This will also start a new thread on my mobile. My cell phone will turn off every time someone sends me an SMS and every time I send a text message with Focals, it is as if Focals also send text messages to my cell phone. This caused my cell phone to die at least double and my inbox messy. Android users will not experience this problem because Focals can sync directly with the Android messaging app.

This behavior also brings some interesting answers, as you can see. Among other things, my cautious father refused to answer the text of this strange number of Focals. I'm not surprised. Apart from the unknown number, thanks to automatic correction, I was never able to send a text message "This is Scharon", only "This is Sharon" or "This is a question".

I also struggled a bit with voice to text. The words creep onto the screen much slower than I said. It was an automatic correction in front of me, then gave me the option to send when I thought I had finished speaking. But sometimes I have a lot to say in the text and I don't know what will happen when I start. And seeing Focals write and edit my words disappointed me.

Also, the Focals screen automatically sleeps after being around 8 seconds to prevent AR from becoming harmful and save battery life. So sometimes if I pause too long between display words it goes off and I have to restart my text. This often seems to happen in less than 8 seconds, forcing me to restart my message many times.

Although not perfect, I am still impressed with the understanding of listening to Focals here and they also criticize me for how Focals combined inbound message warnings with emojis based on the content of the message. I appreciate seeing a smiling, expressionless face next to some of my mother's text messages.

If you don't mind the limitations of prewritten responses or the ingenious behavior of speech-to-text technology, the SMS Focals app can certainly help multitasking.

Calendar

Synchronize focus with your mobile calendar to display upcoming events for the day. You can only see today's schedule on Focals. You can't click an address at an event or add a new appointment through smart glasses.

Addresses

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Focus has compass-based, turn-by-turn directions, powered by Mapbox-specific maps, in the Places menu. You can save two addresses that are always shown in Places, which allows quick directions or Uber, in the smartphone application. The Places menu also automatically displays the closest point of interest. Or you can enter an address with a voice command. Driving instructions are not recommended.

Useful for city dwellers, Focals also tells you where the closest public transportation is. My focal points told me that the next bus that would arrive outside my apartment was a long 5 and 10 minutes away. However, like many directions applications, it does not consider more transportation routes, such as subway stations 1.3 miles from my apartment that I live every day. days. So to get a more detailed description of your travel options, you still can't beat looking at maps or street intelligence.

If you save your home or office address in the Focals app, the Focals home screen will also tell you the fastest way to get there by public transportation during peak hours. Smart glasses also allow you to send ETA messages by route by clicking on them. All of this is potentially useful for those who are constantly rushing back and forth or with multiple stops. But it's forgotten for those who routinely come and go from work every day.

The weather

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The Weather app displays the current weather at your location. Scrolling down displays the current weather, plus three more, "Aft", "Eve", "Night" and "Morning", depending on the current time. You cannot check the weather for other days or hours.

Like most weather apps I've tried, Focals Weather app doesn't seem to be completely accurate. At one point, I could see rain, and even Alexa confirmed this, but Focal claimed it was just "fog."

Battery status

By scrolling to the right, you can view the battery status of Focals and Loops at any time, indicated in individual percentages.

Picture quality

The most impressive part of Focals is that nobody will know when you use the application, because the AR screen can only be seen by the user.

It works by creating red, green, and blue light that is manipulated to create text and images sent by the Focals projector. Additionally, there is a holographic lens in the right eye that is embedded with a clear film designed to interact only with the red, green, and blue wavelengths. Everything else happens. According to North, "When our specific wavelengths of light come in contact with a transparent film, it acts like a mirror and reflects light back into the eyes by placing images directly in your line of sight where only you can see them."

The first thing I noticed about the Focals look was the bright colors. Like the ice cream parlor, AR is filled with bright pink, blue, yellow, and green. There is never a boring notification here. It makes things even more fun by adding emojis to incoming notifications. Even activating the screen, which takes about a second, produces a light animation, with time to rise in gradient and color effects.

In the sun, at night, or with sunglasses clips, the image remains bright and bold, but sometimes I see ghost images or double vision. For me, this happens occasionally in a room near the sun. windows. I see the reflection of light green from the view on the right. North told me that this is the result of green light bouncing off the lens layer that is intended for red or blue light and tends to occur in darker environments. Lowering the brightness to a minimum generally eliminates the effect.

The biggest problem is the flickering effect I experienced. Images always seem to move very little, similar to CRT monitors. This impairs the clarity of the screen, which is still readable, but the touch is difficult to see for more than a few seconds, especially for text. North told me this was probably due to the refreshing speed of my glasses being too low. After receiving a replacement pair, the image looks sharper, but sometimes it still seems to vibrate a bit. Perhaps I am more sensitive to the effects than others.

Image quality remains fairly consistent in different environments except when looking directly out of a bright window (no active sun clips). With the light in my eyes, some text on the left side faded in and out of visibility when reading text messages or the weather of the day.

Battery duration

Norte states that the focal lengths last up to 18 hours and cycles for up to three days with "intermittent use." As mentioned, you can always check the status of Focals and Loop in the companion app or by scrolling all the way to the right to the right of the smart glasses.

I use Focals instead of my cell phone as often as possible, which means sending lots of text messages and reading notifications, checking the weather and instructions at least once, and playing games for at least 5 minutes – at maximum brightness and volume . They survive 7-10 hours a day, while the Loop lasts just over 3 days before needing to be refilled.

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As mentioned earlier, the Focals and Loop cases are also their chargers. They need time for 2 hours to fully charge at the same time. This case is also fully charged in four hours, to use as a portable charger. The fully charged battery case should last for three full charges, but mine never lasted 2 full charges just from Focals (not Loop). I would not recommend a weekend trip without a power adapter.

Is hot

After 2 minutes of continuous use, the bulb feels warm to the touch. After 5 minutes, I feel the soft heat on my face. Again, this isn't hot enough to make me take my glasses off, but it's still annoying. Most of the heat is in the right arm, especially the upper part (the part that does not touch the face) near the temple.

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After playing Focals for 5 continuous minutes with maximum brightness and volume, the hottest spot on the right arm is 44 degrees Celsius (111.2 degrees Fahrenheit).

Availability

The focal points need two personal accessories to ensure that the glasses fit their face and that the AR position is suitable for their eyes. Therefore, you should be able to physically get to one of the two North stores (Brooklyn or Toronto) twice. North is working to expand, but it is not yet known when or where we can expect an additional showroom.

$ 999 focus fee without prescription lenses. Prescription lenses add $ 200 to the price. Prescribers will be able to use their insurance to help pay, North told me. Prices will depend on the customer's insurance provider / package.

Point

The focal points are worth seeing if you're ready to wear smart glasses. Only with the AR you can see, they are separate, and there is a high probability that people will think of them as ordinary glasses or, with clips included in the lens, sunglasses.

But much of what you pay for is that aspect. In terms of application, Focals has a minimum, but I want to see more. Control over music, video streaming apps, voice-to-note memos, or even some games will make the $ 999 spec more attractive. Even though the price is in line with the competition, you can still get a laptop for that amount, so the more features the better.

Among current Focals apps, there are some small, but obvious limitations, such as iPhone users' text messages sent from different numbers and the inability to click links or media or view calendars or weather for the next few days. The glasses generally alert you when there are incoming / missed calls, but multiple times my review unit did not.

Image quality also has room for improvement. In addition to the occasional ghost image, two of my review samples show readable content that looks a bit shaky, like a CRT monitor, making the text especially annoying to be viewed in unwanted blurry light.

Pero si ha estado esperando un par de anteojos inteligentes que ofrezcan funcionalidad sin destruir la credibilidad de su moda, actualmente no hay mejor opción que Focals. Con Vuzix Blade actualmente a partir de $ 799, los focales son $ 200 más baratos y mucho más atractivos. Sin embargo, la apariencia de Blade es mucho más nítida. El controlador de bucle obligatorio puede verse como una carga, pero es un pequeño precio a pagar por la finura. Si está dispuesto a pagar el precio premium necesario para gafas inteligentes y llegar a Brooklyn o Toronto, Focals promete el mejor estilo, una experiencia de usuario agradable, fácil de usar (pero básico) e instalación premium.

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