Heads-Up User Group (HUUG) Research Project

The “HUUGers”, six students from the MA English and undergraduate Systems Design Engineering programs, wore Focals by North smart glasses for three weeks while blogging about their experiences with the glasses. The participants then discussed their experiences with the glasses in a focus group.


Augmented Reality Smart Glasses (ASRG) are a recent development in consumer-level personal computing technology. Research on ARSGs has largely focused on new forms of etiquette for these personal computing devices, but little else has been examined due in part to consumer availability. The most well-known example of an ASRG is Google Glass, which was discontinued for privacy concerns. Focals by North, the device studied in this project, do not have the capacity to record video or audio, thus mitigating the risk of privacy breaches. This study examines how users of Focals employ the device, successfully or not, to facilitate daily activities such as scheduling, communication, wayfinding, and how non-users perceive the interactions of Focals users. Focals by North, a relatively low-cost ASRG, aims to make this tech mass market to “seamlessly [blend] technology into our world” (North). However, this study found participants preferred choice when receiving notifications, and greatly questioned the need for notifications to appear in their field of vision. Though most technology companies envision a future where ASRGs are ubiquitous, this study indicates that the glasses could be utilized more effectively for specific industry or personal needs, as opposed to the general consumer.

Principal Investigator: Marcel O’Gorman

Research Assistants: Chelsea La Vecchia (MA XDM) and Alexi Orchard (MA XDM)

This project was funded by the Canada Foundation for Innovation, SSHRC, and North.

Focals by North

In June 2020, North was acquired by Google and production for Focals 2.0 ceased. View North’s statement and news coverage here.

Related research:

Adapa, Apurva, et al. “Factors Influencing the Adoption of Smart Wearable Devices.” International Journal of Human–Computer Interaction, vol. 34, no. 5, Taylor & Francis, May 2018, pp. 399–409. Taylor and Francis+NEJM, doi:10.1080/10447318.2017.1357902.

Booth, Callum. “North’s Focals 2.0 Smart Glasses Drop in 2020 — and They’d Better Be Good.” Plugged | The Next Web, 10 Dec. 2019, https://thenextweb.com/plugged/2019/12/10/norths-focals-2-0-smart-glasses-2020/.

Carman, Ashley. “Employees Warned North That Its Focals AR Glasses Were Overpriced and Too Male-Focused.” The Verge, 23 Dec. 2019, https://www.theverge.com/2019/12/23/21035390/north-focals-launch-letter-executives-ar-glasses-overpriced-employee-concerns.

“North Staff Warned CEO Its Smart Glasses Were Too Expensive, Didn’t Work Well for Women.” The Logic, 23 Dec. 2019, https://thelogic.co/news/exclusive/north-staff-warned-ceo-its-smart-glasses-were-too-expensive-didnt-work-well-for-women/.

O’Gorman, Marcel. “The Techlash Is Coming.” The Globe and Mail, 28 Oct. 2018. The Globe and Mail, https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/article-the-techlash-is-coming/.

Rauschnabel, Philipp, et al. “Augmented Reality Smart Glasses: Definition, Conceptual Insights, and Managerial Importance.” Working Paper, The University of Michigan-Dearborn, July 2015.

Rauschnabel, Philipp, and Young Ro. RAUSCHNABEL & RO: Augmented Reality Smart Glasses: An Investigation of Technology Acceptance Factors. 22 Apr. 2016. Stein, Scott. “In 2020, Smart Glasses May Start Looking Totally Normal.” CNET, https://www.cnet.com/news/in-2020-smart-glasses-may-start-looking-totally-normal/.

Virtually Enhancing the Real World with Holograms: An Exploration of Expected Gratifications of Using Augmented Reality Smart Glasses – Rauschnabel – 2018 – Psychology & Marketing – Wiley Online Library. https://onlinelibrary-wiley-com.proxy.lib.uwaterloo.ca/doi/full/10.1002/mar.21106?casa_token=wy9KUWQLw7cAAAAA%3AMuM9w103EcZHNkY4ZHlG4cMCjtjLBxrVqgLORcaG7uXPFuPRLpv-oahI3CEeYqg0YlS1wYCasBZtow.