North extends reach with virtual try-on tool

The smart glasses company is looking to provide remote fittings to expand the market for its Focals smart glasses.

Smart glasses company North is allowing customers to go through the measurement process without ever visiting one of its locations in-person with a new virtual fitting tool.

Using the TrueDepth camera on newer iPhone models, North’s new iOS app creates a 3D fitting and face measurement experience that allows would-be customers to virtual try on and size a pair of Focals, the company’s smart glasses.

North was created almost one year ago, when Thalmic Labs relaunched with a new focus on creating smart glasses that were seen more as a fashion accessory than a consumer tech product, helped by stylish designs and a boutique-style retail experience. While that helped increase the prestige of the brand, it was also a necessity, as the company uses a “sizing rig” made up of 11 cameras to create a 3D scan and ensure the glasses were properly fit before purchase.

That also limited its reach, as customers had to be available to attend fitting appointments in either Toronto, New York or one of the handful of stops on a mobile tour that brought the sizing rig to three U.S. cities earlier this year. Stephen Lake, co-founder and CEO of North, said in a blog post that made for “a tough process to purchase Focals.” This new app helps extend the reach of the brand, with plans to extend the service outside of Canada and the U.S. at some point in the future.

While North says appointment slots were full for the mobile tour, it reduced the base prices for Focals earlier this year to $799 from $1,330 (prescription lenses cost an additional $200) and was forced to lay off 150 of its staff in Waterloo, Ont.

Lake also said in the blog post that getting the sizing right for Focals is imperative, both so they fit and work properly, hence why the brand required an in-person visit when it launched. The TrueDepth camera the new app uses to create precise 3D images is also only available on iPhone X models or later. Initial sales for the X model fell far short of expectations, but picked up slightly for the later XS and XR models (though still didn’t meet the fanatical levels of excitement Apple was used to for previous models), and Lake points out there are now approximately 100 million devices compatible with the try-on tool on the market. Apple also said it expects demand for the iPhone 11, which is being released tomorrow, to be similar to the XS and XR, partially due to the low adoption of iPhone X models leaving many consumers potentially looking for a phone upgrade.

The AR display on Focals show wearers text messages, calendars, directions, weather, while also integrating functions Amazon Alexa and Uber. Since launch, North has launched several new features for Focals, such as Spotify integration, transit directions, capturing voice notes and the ability to show a live feed on a user’s smartphone.