Employees of Canadian start-up North, formerly known as Thalmic Labs, recently wrote to the chief executive that the company’s Focals smart glasses, released in January 2019, were not ready for sale. In an eight-page letter obtained bymedia, The Logic, the employees described the company as trying to get the glasses to market as quickly as possible, at the expense of functionality and attractiveness.
The letter says the glasses retail for $999, but for most ordinary consumers they are worth between $50 and $100. The Logic reported that the letter to Stephen Lake, chief executive, and company executives were written by North’s head of product research, M?lodie Vidal, and was endorsed by a “large number” of the company’s team members.
The above image is from The Verge
The letter was not made public, but outlined the problems the development team faced in studying various user groups and their product experiences, particularly for women and the disabled. “Our aggressive release schedule and many adjustments to the experience have led to many features that were not tested before they went live,” the letter reads. We’ve seen reports that our glasses aren’t suitable for women wearing mascara, which is common for working women. “This shows that the product is not as attractive to women as it is to women, so that it tilts toward skewed the male user base.”
In the letter, there are also concerns that people with disabilities will not be able to use Focals properly. “We are introducing a size that cannot be accepted by people with disabilities,” the letter said. This is a known issue that will have serious legal implications (and long-term damage to brand awareness). “
More broadly, the letter suggests that North did not spend time on user reports or take the concerns of internal team members seriously. The letter said: “User research is not usually given priority by North’s predecessor. But now we don’t run as a community because we don’t have a common leader. As a result, feedback is spread across departments and does not have a linkage effect. “