North Adds Spotify, Transit Functions to Focals
More than anything, receiving regular announcements from North that their Focal smart glasses will receive new features is supremely comforting to me. We’re still a few weeks away from receiving our review pair of the glasses, but it makes me feel confident that the company will continue to improve the user experience and add new features to these things that helps keep them fresh and current—which is exactly what you want to hear as you prepare to drop a good chunk of change on a piece of technology.
From the get go, these smart glasses set themselves apart based simply on the fact that they really do hide the technology. But, diving into the functionality of the glasses, North launched them with plenty of great features out of the box, including turn-by-turn walking directions, quick access to text messages, Amazon Alexa support, and more. Those experiences, as Head of Product Walter Hermsen explains in a recent blog post, were carefully chosen by the company so as to not overwhelm the user. Focals were meant to “give you access to your digital world without pulling you away from what’s in front of you,” he said.
But here we are, six months later, and North is gradually opening the glasses up to more test features and full-blown, ready-for-prime-time functionalities. The latest set added to the user experience include music control through Spotify Connect and transit updates aimed at making the morning and evening commute a breeze.
With music control—an oft requested feature, according to Hermsen—users will be able to skip songs, see the title/artist, and adjust the volume of connected devices like phones and speakers, right from their Focals. The functionality will even work when the display is off by using the Loop ring accessory. North noted that some features will be limited to Spotify Premium subscribers.
And for transit updates, Focals will be able to suggest the quickest route to work or back home, as well as show the wearer any delays and give them ETAs, and share that info with their contacts. The contextual, on-display experience is still something that Hermsen said they’re working on, as North tries to find ways to deliver the right information to the user at the right time.
Additionally, North added some functionality that’s intended to make note taking during meetings a more seamless experience—sans paper and pen. Using a tool called Rewind, users will be able to record notes with their voice. After the meeting, they’ll receive an email from North with an audio file and text transcript of those notes. Also, if you’re running a little late to a meeting, North now gives users the ability to quickly email attendees to let them know, right from Focals, without having to dig through a calendar or collaboration app.
How each of these newly added features performs, we’ll soon find out. But, again, this all comes down to the fact that North is clearly actively working on ways to build out and improve the Focals experience. It’s encouraging to see, from the consumer side of things, and should give anyone considering this product confidence in the brand’s direction moving forward.