Google Hardware’s latest acquisition is North, a wearables computing company that most recently was making smart glasses that seemed like a successor to Google Glass. Google Hardware SVP Rick Osterloh announced the purchase on Google’s blog, saying, “North’s technical expertise will help as we continue to invest in our hardware efforts and ambient computing future.”
North developed and released a pair of smart glasses called “Focals,” which came the closest we’ve seen so far to smart glasses that looked like normal glasses. First, the company didn’t neglect the “glasses” part of “smart glasses” and provided the frames in a range of styles, sizes, and colors, with support for prescription lenses. The technology was noticeably less invasive, too. Google Glass’s display surface was a transparent block distractingly placed in front of the users’ face, but Focal’s display surface was the glasses’ lens itself. A laser projector poked out from the thicker-than-normal temple arms and fired into the lens, which has a special coating, allowing the projection to reflect light into the eye.
As you can probably guess from the thicker arms, all the computer components and the battery were smushed into the arms. The device worked a lot like a smartwatch, tethering to your phone for Internet and personal data. It not being a part of the Google or Apple ecosystem duopoly meant a host of app and ecosystem problems, but the glasses supported pop-up notifications, calendar viewing, weather, navigation, Uber, and some kind of messaging support. There was even Amazon Alexa support for voice commands. Like Google Glass, Focals aren’t augmented reality; they’re just a transparent display that shows flat imagery, more like a smartwatch for your face.
The other input mechanism was pretty wild: a joystick ring. You wore the ring around your index finger and could make a fist and control the tiny joystick nub with your thumb, allowing for directional navigation through the UI.
The Focals had some problems, mostly due to the particulars of the laser-beam scanning (LBS) display. The laser stuck out of the temple and reflected off the glasses lens and into the pupil. The angles wouldn’t work as a straight reflection, so a holographic coating was needed on the glasses lens to act as a tiled mirror, directing the laser light into the eye at the right angle. The effective sweet spot was incredibly small, so much so that Focals required every customer to show up to a physical store and have their head 3D scanned to allow a custom pair of glasses to be made for them. Even then, the display was tiny (North’s marketing images, showing a lens-filling image, were not accurate) with only a 300×300 resolution and a 15-degree field of view.
The Focals were anywhere from $600 to $1,000, depending on your color and prescription needs, and launched in 2019. By all accounts, the company was not doing well before Google bought it. After the January 2019 launch, Focals laid off 150 employees in February 2019, a substantial portion of the “over 400 people” it employed. Josh O’Kane, the reporter who broke the acquisition story for the Toronto-based Globe and Mail, said on Twitter, “We’ve learned the company likely sold very, very few Focals and was running out of money.” The company has planned a Focals 2.0 with a better display and lighter body, but with the Google acquisition, those products are canceled.
Google’s smart glasses contribution was, of course, the infamous Google Glass, which launched in 2012 and basically shut down as a consumer product about two years later. (North CEO Stephen Lake actually called Google Glass “a massive failure” in a 2019 tech talk. Awkward!) Most people would think of the product as dead, but Google quietly pivoted Glass to be an enterprise product for assembly-line workers, mechanics, doctors, and other professions that might benefit from hands-free computing. New Glass hardware came out as recently as 2019, with the “Google Glass Enterprise Edition 2,” which featured a modern 10nm Qualcomm SoC. With Apple reportedly building a set of smart glasses, the consumer market will probably heat up again soon.
The acquisition of North is the latest in a burst of purchases from Google’s hardware team. Google bought Fitbit in 2019 for $2.1 billion, its fifth-largest acquisition ever, and the purchase is still waiting for regulatory approval. Also in 2019, Google bought $40 million worth of technology and an R&D team from Fossil Group, a Wear OS smartwatch OEM. In 2018, Google closed a $1.1 billion deal with HTC, bringing the Pixel smartphone design team in-house.
Listing image by North
WhatsApp launches disappearing photos and video for all your sensitive (and sexy) messages – Mashable
If one thing is clear from the surge of horny-on-main-ness during Twitter Fleets’ last hurrah, it’s that people love a disappearing thirst trap.
Joining the party, WhatsApp will now let you send private and disappearing photos and videos. So whether it’s a steamy sext, something cute you’d like to delete later, or even sensitive content like passwords or financial details sent to someone you trust, WhatsApp is rolling out “View Once” photos and videos that will disappear from the chat after they’ve been opened.
Users need to have the latest version of WhatsApp on iOS or Android to use the View Once feature.
In 2020, WhatsApp added a new privacy feature that allowed people to change their settings so that messages would be automatically deleted after seven days. This new View Once feature allows you to send a pic or video that will disappear instantly, much like sending someone a Snap.
As the new feature’s name suggests, photos and videos sent using the View Once method will disappear once they’ve been opened. Media won’t be saved in the recipient’s camera roll or their WhatsApp photos.
You’ll only be able to see if a recipient has opened a View Once photo or video if you have read receipts switched on — it will be marked as “opened.” And if you’ve received a View Once message, you’ll have 14 days in which to open it before the media will expire from the chat.
In order for the messages to disappear after opening, you’ll need to select “View Once media” each time you want to send a message like this.
It is possible for someone to screenshot the View Once content, and of course, it’s also possible for someone to capture the message using another device before it disappears. For these reasons, WhatsApp urges caution when it comes to sending messages of this nature. “Only send photos or videos with View Once media enabled to trusted individuals,” reads a blog on the new feature.
As with everything sent in WhatsApp, View Once messages are protected by end-to-end encryption so WhatsApp cannot see them, although it does share your metadata with Facebook.
Murals brightening up Downtown Timmins – TimminsToday
The Downtown Timmins BIA is hoping new murals will inspire people.
Colourful paintings featuring plenty of outdoor scenes and the iconic McIntyre Headframe are decorating empty downtown storefronts.
The six sets of two posters were officially unveiled today and are helping to brighten up vacant stores, said Cindy Campbell, Downtown Timmins BIA executive director.
“Every time somebody stops and looks or gets closer to a business downtown, a vacant storefront, and they look in and see potential or they think ‘hey wait a minute if I put dressing in that window would I get the same exposure?’ All of a sudden that mom-and-pop business idea that was in the back of your head becomes a reality. If I can showcase my products like they’re showcasing what they’re doing, I have a chance at a business,” she said.
The initiative is part of the I HeART Main Street project sponsored by STEPS, an award-winning cultural organization.
“We chose the theme of living in Timmins, which of course includes a lot of outdoor activities, so each of them has water and a forest scene and you’ll also notice the headframe, which is iconic to Timmins,” explained Campbell.
Two artists painted the pieces. For the project, the BIA chose from a list of eligible artists provided by STEPS.
While they aren’t local artists, Campbell said the BIA will share details for the next call out for artists so Northern Ontario people can apply.
“Unfortunately, Steps is not that well known in a sense. The work they’ve done has predominantly been in metro Toronto so a lot of the artists are from metro Toronto, however, their roster is opening up in the fall and they’ll be putting out a public call for artists. Based on Northern Ontario and especially Timmins’ participation, they’re specifically reaching out to Indigenous and northern artists to become part of the roster so their artwork can be shown across Canada,” she said.
The murals can be found at:
- 75 Pine St. S
- 85 Pine St S.
- 264 Third Ave.
- 221 Third Ave.
- 166 Third Ave.
- 123 Third Ave.
Sony Gaming Profit Drops 33%, Partially Due To Selling PS5 At A Loss – Forbes
Getting an install base: it ain’t cheap. That’s one of the main takeaways from Sony’s recent earnings report, where the company has seen increases overall, but in the gaming sector, revenue rose just 2% while profit dropped 33% year over year.
This is due to a few factors, fewer PS4 sales in the new gen, fewer third party game sales and sales of digital content. The fact that pandemic dramatically increased spending in the gaming sector last year. But a main contributing factor is that Sony is selling millions and millions of $400 and $500 PS5s “lower than manufacturing cost” in order to establish a “strategic price point.”
This is not uncommon in the industry. Most consoles are sold at a loss, outside of rare exceptions like the Nintendo Switch which are profitable at baseline. Xbox too is being sold at a loss, but there’s no sense of scale because we don’t know the exact manufacturing costs, only estimates.
Then there’s the obvious issue that Sony is…selling a metric ton of PS5s. They have broken every sales record for fast-selling consoles there is with the PS5, and they’ve done so being incredibly supply constrained with new units continuing to sell out instantly, not even close to being able to meet demand.
But it’s pretty easy math. The more consoles you sell, if you’re selling at a loss, the bigger that loss will be. And that’s what we’re seeing right now.
Of course, the video game industry is not a charity. It is strategic to price powerful consoles under cost in order to get an install base so you can then make your profit on games, DLC, microtransactions and subscription services. Microsoft is doing the same thing, but again, we’re not sure exactly what each console costs, and how much Sony and Microsoft are losing on units respectively.
Microsoft has the less powerful Series S priced at $300 and the more powerful Series X at $500. Sony wanted to replicate its success with the PS4 undercutting the Xbox One, so they have the PS5 digital model priced at $400, and the disc drive one at $500. It’s likely the digital one is losing even more money because that $100 price difference is not just going to be the cost of a disc drive.
It’s a common thought that if you were trying to build a gaming PC at the same level of power as these consoles, you would be spending more on parts, so it’s no surprise that these are losing money. Usually as time goes on, costs go down and margins can narrow, or even turn into profit on consoles eventually. (Update: Sony says that the PS5 disc is actually making money after initially being sold at a loss. The PS5 digital is still selling at a loss)
In the end, Sony wants to sell as many PS5s as possible, losses aside. Once those are in homes, then they can build out their profit from continued game and subscription sales over the years, but it may take a while to get to that point, that much seems clear given the current state of the market.
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