I tried $600 customized smart glasses for a week


  • I tried $600 smart glasses called Focals made by the Canadian startup North.
  • Focals are meant for everyday use to make you less reliant on pulling out your phone for notifications, directions, and even calling an Uber. 
  • Watch the video above to watch me try on Focals and give my review all the features on these smart glasses.
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Following is a transcript of the video.

Alex Appolonia: These glasses will cost you $600. They’re actually smart glasses called Foc als made by the Canadian startup North. Focals are meant for everyday use, and their main purpose: to make you rely less on having to pull out your phone. But these provide you notifications and other information right in front of your face, just like smartphones, but faster and arguably more convenient. But is it really as good as it seems? I wanted to see if smart glasses really will replace a smartphone or if it’s just all hype. Watch out New York, Alex has a pair of smart glasses. So how do they work? There is a holographic display on the right lens that shows notifications and information directly from your phone. This is all controlled by a small ring called the Loop, which allows you to navigate and interact with your display all via Bluetooth.

Adam Ketcheson: The idea was, what can we create that can be part of your everyday life and seamlessly fit it into your life and give you all of those benefits of being connected to the world. Alex: From the home screen alone, I could check the time, weather, messages, calendar notifications, locations, and even my battery life. Pretty much everything I could check on my phone, well, maybe not everything, just the things I wanna know right away. It even has Alexa integrated into the glasses, so you can ask Alexa questions through the built-in mic and speaker. Foc als can even let you call an Uber. You better believe we tried all these features along the way. First stop: getting fitted. At North’s showroom in Brooklyn, they custom-fitted me and even gave me a quick demo of what I would experience when wearing them. A pretty unique sizing process, measuring my head size, width between my eyes, and other measurements to make sure the hologram would perfectly align with my eyes. The crazy part is they are just made for me, so no one could see the hologram display while wearing my glasses.

Gene Kim: I hear little beeps in my right ear, but nothing showing up.

Kara Chin: Am I not looking in the right place?

Alex Appolonia: After a few weeks, my glasses were ready to be picked up and sized for my final fitting. I just got them, woo-hoo! It is officially day one of me wearing my Focal smart glasses. I’m heading into the office and mostly going to be sitting at my desk during the day just kind of performing simple daily tasks. I’m going to just try and get used to the look and the feel of these and see how my first day goes.

I wanted to take my Foc als a step further today. I figured it’s day one, why not? So I tried out the GPS feature to get me from my apartment to the PATH station. Alexa, how do I get to the Hoboken PATH station? Alexa: Directions to PATH station: Hoboken on Hudson Place in River Road in Hoboken. Turn left onto First Street. Alex: It’s kind of neat having each step pop up, and then it will go away in about five seconds, so it’s not very distracting if I’m walking or crossing the street. And at one point I intentionally wanted to make a wrong turn to see if it would reroute me, and it didn’t, so that was like a little disappointing and kind of shows that their GPS is not so accurate.

I’m used to wearing glasses. I do wearing them on a daily basis, but after wearing these Foc als for a full day, my eyes do seem more tired. Alexa, what’s the weather today?

Alexa: In Hoboken, it’s 6 degrees Fahrenheit with clear skies.

Alex Appolonia: I just got to the office, and I’m going to put my phone down for the day and just rely on my smart glasses. I was already informed that when I’m sending a voice-to-text message to one of my contacts, a different number will appear when they receive the message. OK, so I did pick up my phone just because I posted an Instagram Story, but no more phone today. I can’t help it if my glasses don’t let me check social media. Stay warm. My eyes took awhile to get adjusted to the Foc als. At times they felt heavy, slid down my nose, became loose, and I even had to make them refitted. As my week went on, the holographic display was very out of focus and even glitchy at times. I even lost the nose pad, which kind of threw off all the display, and I couldn’t really see anything. So I ended going back to the store to get them realigned and tightened to fit my face. Let’s just say day four was the true test, when I tried calling an Uber right from my Foc als. Jay Street Subway station. I have the option to walk or Uber, and we are going with Uber. This Uber is six minutes away, and it’s $8. Looking for ride! It’s a little complicated ordering the Uber from my Foc als. I did have to bring out my phone just to kind of see some of the notifications from when my driver’s arriving. It’s kind of neat. It is giving me updates throughout my ride, and it’s saying I’m three minutes away from my destination.

I tried texting and responding more and even using my calendar with the glasses. Schedule a meeting for tomorrow at 10:30 a.m. I ran some errands and asked Alexa to guide me to the local grocery store.

Alexa: Would you like directions to Organic Basic Food LLC on 204 Washington St. in Hoboken? Alex: Which wasn’t an easy experience. Before I knew it, my journey into the future of tech had come to an end.

Alex Appolonia: After a full week of wearing my Foc als, here are my final thoughts. As for the comforting fit of the Foc als, they were really uncomfortable at times. They felt even heavy, and they would slide down my nose, so I had to kind of keep pushing them back up, and just really bulky on the sides. Alexa was not very effective when I was in a loud or noisy environment. She couldn’t easily connect and understand the commands that I was asking her. This just became really frustrating sometimes, and I wanted to just pick up my phone. The holographic display wasn’t super clear and easy to see in the sun, so I often used my sun clips. As for the Loop, it died a lot faster than the Foc als, and that could’ve just been because I was navigating most of the time with the Loop. But the good part was I was able to get all my notifications on my Foc als, and I was a lot more hands-free and relied a lot less on my phone. North has a lot of great features so far, and they have a lot more to kind of grow and integrate into these Foc als, but it would be nice if I could play my music on them, maybe even pick up a phone call, and watch some videos. Since trying them out, North has added a few new features like music controls and transit updates to the Foc als. But it’s going to take a lot more than telling it to skip to the next song before it’s a must-have device. My overall rating for the Foc als would be 3 out of 5. Personally, I did not find them to be an ideal everyday wearable. I’m not really a techy person, but it was a really nice challenge to wear these smart glasses for a week and step into the future.

I also responded to What is this? What is this? Hey!

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