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Google Acquires North; Gains User Interface, Wearable Device Technology

Rick Osterlo, SVP, Google

Google has acquired North, a technology startup focused on human computer interfaces, wearable devices and smart glasses, Rick Osterloh, senior VP of devices & services, disclosed in a Google blog. Financial terms were not disclosed.

This is M&A deal 264 that ChannelE2E has covered so far in 2020. See the complete M&A deal list here.

North, founded in 2012, focused on building technology that’s “immediately accessible when you want it, but hidden away when you don’t.”

Early North investors included Intel Capital, The Amazon Alexa FundFidelity Investments Canada, and Spark Capital. The funding journey included a $120 million Series B round in 2016, when North was known as Thalmic Labs.

The big question: Will North’s technology someday surface in Google Glass Enterprise Edition and other wearable devices?

Google Acquires North: Glass Implications?

North originally developed Myo, which “leveraged the electrical activity in your arm muscles to control devices such as drones, computers, smartphones, among other contraptions,” VentureBeat notes. But the company pivoted in 2018 to develop Focals smart glasses.

Under Google’s ownership, Focals devices will no longer be developed or sold — a clear indication that Google acquired intellectual property rather than specific devices to resell.

Google has been developing its own wearable devices and smart glasses since at least 2012. The journey has included Google Glass, a family of smart glasses that failed to catch on with consumers but continues to have potential business implications. Potential use cases include IT solutions providers and end-users wearing the glasses for “smart assistance” tasks.

Still, Google did not indicate whether North’s Focals technology will surface in Google Glass Enterprise Edition.

Google Acquires North: Executive Perspectives

In his blog about the North acquisition, Osterloh stated:

“North’s technical expertise will help as we continue to invest in our hardware efforts and ambient computing future. They’ll join the Google team based in Kitchener-Waterloo, Canada—North’s hometown and an area with impressive tech talent. We’re excited to welcome our new colleagues, and committed to the growing global tech community of Kitchener-Waterloo.”

In a blog about the M&A deal, North’s founders wrote:

“Over the last while, it became clear that aligning with Google would significantly advance our shared vision. This acquisition is a terrific fit for North and, importantly, we’re staying here in Kitchener-Waterloo. We’re proud to have grown our company in the Kitchener-Waterloo region and are thankful for the tremendous support we’ve received from the community. We are looking forward to remaining in the region with Google.”

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