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Dan Guy
Oct 24, 2018

Focals by North

10 comments

 

 

I read about Focals in /r/wearables yesterday. They appear to be trying to occupy a similar space to Shima. The tech specs are buried but can be found here.

 

Differences:

1.) $1k

2.) requires an in-person consultation to collect measurements

3.) arms are thicker

4.) Alexa built in

5.) case charges glasses

6.) ring joystick

7.) no prism in lens? no apparent way to tell they are smart glasses?

8.) claim to start shipping in December, with the second style and prescription lenses to start shipping in 2019

 

#1-3 make it much less attractive than Shima, but I'm intrigued by #4-7.

 

I know there's been some talk of integrating Alexa with Shima, and a case that can charge glasses seems like an awesome product that anyone could produce...

 

The ring joystick looks way too bulky to wear all the time. I'd rather have a touch interface on my phone, it would be barely more conspicuous than putting on a giant ring and fidgeting with it.

Adam DB
Oct 25, 2018

I saw that article as well. The way I read it, there's a reflecting layer in the lens, meaning (I suppose) that the pupillary distance doesn't matter, which would be awesome. The rest means little to me... I'm not wearing a smart ring to operate my smartglasses. Alexa is US only, and I'm not talking to my tech in public anyway. The charging case could be ok, but battery life is supposed to easily get us through a day, and I'm not sleeping with the glasses on.

Dan Guy
Oct 25, 2018

You raise good points.

 

I will be interested to see how their announced shipping plans play out and if they are similarly beset by delays.

Adam DB
Oct 25, 2018

Indeed! But if nothing else, it'll give Corey & Co. a reason to step it up a notch - nothing like a bit of competition…!

Dan Guy
Feb 5

Focals is doing a better job of getting their product out to Instagram wearable tech influencers. There's not a lot, but there's a small variety and within the past month!

Dan Guy
Apr 6

They've knocked $400 off the price and are now offering prescription lenses. I have an appointment to be measured next week. I think that Laforge looks better, but I'll take what I can get for now.

Adam DB
Apr 8

I'm still not a fan of the controls, but unless it's against the forum rules, I'd love to hear about the glasses when you get them!

Dan Guy
Apr 8

@Adam DB :: The more I've thought about it, the more I like the idea of having a set of controls discretely in hand. From the reviews that I've read, some people seem to be into the ring. I still think it looks a little big...

Dan Guy
Apr 16Edited: Apr 16

I have now spent a good amount of time wearing a demo pair of Focals and the Loop ring and I am more excited than ever for LAFORGE Shima.

 

I went to Brooklyn this past Saturday to get my head 3D scanned at the Focals by North storefront, after which they let me try on a demo pair and experiment with all of the features. Apparently Focals have to be made to the wearer's facial geometry because their method of projecting the image onto a holographic foil on the lens requires great precision. I have heard from other customers that they were not able to see the image well with the demo pair. I was fortunate that the demo pair worked almost perfectly for me.

 

Using the Focals was really fun, and sparked a ton of ideas for potential apps that I'd like to see (or develop myself). I am really excited about the future of smart glasses.

 

Focals vs. Shima

  1. Focals are +$10 for non-prescription lenses and +$200 for prescription lenses.

  2. Focals require two visits to a showroom, one to be measured and one to be fitted.

  3. The arms of the Focals appear to be thicker. The right arm, where most or all of the hardware is located, gets HOT.

  4. Focals has Alexa built in, which is cool. I believe that Corey has raised the possibility of Shima also featuring Alexa. I would prefer Google Assistant, but everyone seems to be getting incubator money from Amazon so I get why they are going with Alexa.

  5. Focals come with a case that charges the glasses and the loop. That's cool but a single charge should last all day and I can't not wear my glasses so the only time I would use that feature would be if I was overnighting somewhere with no electricity.

  6. Focals are controlled with a ring featuring a four way plus click joystick called Loop. I wasn't sold on the idea at first but, after wearing one and playing with it, I like being able to control the device without touching the arms (as with Google Glass and Shima).

  7. Focals use a projector that sticks out a little from the right side behind the lens. They look like normal glasses from afar but up close you can tell that there's something different. Focals use a holographic film on the lens rather than a prism. Supposedly the people you're talking to won't be able to tell that you're seeing something on the lens, but I hear that at certain angles they might notice a glow. Whereas with Shima someone might notice the little "chip" of the prism.

  8. Focals has no camera! (Do not like.) Shima does.

  9. Focals currently does not have a Driving Mode. When they detect that you're driving they mute all notifications and stop working unless you tell them you're a passenger. They say they have a driving mode built but are waiting on some sort of security assessment (and possibly lawyers) before allowing it out. Shima advertises a very cool looking Driving Mode.

  10. Focals only support a display in the right lens, whereas Shima will have both. Shima supports a larger display area in each lens.

  11. Shima offers more frame designs and colors.

  12. North has not announced a developer program. LAFORGE has.

  13. Focals use magnetic charging contacts so the only way to charge them is in their case. Shima will have a micro-USB port, I believe, offering greater possibilities for charging and powering them.

  14. North has been releasing a software update a week for a while, adding new features, which is very cool of them!

So all that said, getting back to my original thesis statement, I think that Focals are cool and I'm eager to have mine, but my biggest take-away is that the future of smart glasses is going to be amazing.

 

Overall I think that Shima has a superior design and technology. Putting the projector inside the arms and using a prism in the lens seems more compact, more reliable, and less noticeable. I am hopeful that the Shima are better balanced and weigh less. Provided that LAFORGE starts shipping devices and their software is competitive I think they have a clear path to owning the space.

 

Adam DB
Apr 16

Thanks for your thorough "report" about the Focals! Great to hear about the tech in general!

About the fitting and the slim margins for usage; this has been a concern of mine regarding the Shimas from the beginning. One thing is measuring pupilar distance, but what if someone has a slimmer or wider nose than usual and therefore wear their glasses higher or lower than normal? As long as these smartglasses rely on narrow margins for fitting the individual, there's a correspondingly large margin for error!

Dan Guy
Apr 16

I will also say that, much like Corey, the North team has been super-responsive to my questions and suggestions, which I really appreciate.

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