John Minchillo / The Associated Press

Concerns have surfaced about possible distractions for motorists and violations of privacy if the new Google Glass wearable computer is widely adopted.

VSP-Google deal could jump-start Google Glass commercial market

Published: Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2014 - 11:25 am
Last Modified: Tuesday, Apr. 15, 2014 - 8:59 am

Wearing a computer on your face might be the wave of the future, but it also helps if you can see where you’re going.

To that end, Google and Rancho Cordova’s VSP Global on Tuesday announced a deal to provide prescription lenses and subsidized frames for Google Glass, the wearable computer/eyewear device with a frame-mounted display screen.

Google, which is planning a launch of the commercial product this year, said the deal “marks the next step in Glass’ evolution and the beginning of a new category of smart eyewear.”

For VSP, which provides vision plan services for more than 60 million people, the deal represents a potential bonanza, linked to a device that has been creating considerable buzz in the high-tech industry in recent months.

In testing and marketing use, Google Glass has not included lenses within the frames, let alone prescription lenses.

“Google Glass is the kind of cutting-edge technology that VSP Vision Care is always looking to bring to VSP eye care providers and 64 million VSP members,” said Jim McGrann, president of VSP Vision Care, a part of VSP Global.

“(Google) Glass is one of the most exciting optical-related technologies brought to consumers in the last decade,” added Matthew Alpert, chairman of Optometric Innovation for VSP Global.

The Google Glass computing device costs $1,500 for early testers invited to buy the product, but the retail introductory price is expected to be hundreds less than that. Titanium frames cost $225. Various styles can be seen at www.google.com/glass/start/.

VSP will produce the prescription lenses locally. Under the deal, Google said, VSP will reimburse members according to their specific prescription plan, with an average reimbursement of $120, plus the cost of buying prescription lenses.

In the information technology world, Google Glass is regarded by some analysts as the next big thing, as it enables hands-free connectivity otherwise provided by a laptop, PC or smartphone.

Google Glass has made waves in highly publicized, real-world applications. Just last week, during the Sacramento Kings game against the Indiana Pacers at Sleep Train Arena, the Kings augmented their in-venue and TV broadcasts with video taken by Google Glass units worn by team personnel. Fans on-site were connected to live feeds even as they watched other on-court action from their seats.

Officials said the Kings were the first professional sports team to use Google Glass in this fashion, with other sports venues in the pipeline.

Google Glass also has experienced some pushback from various groups.

Driving-safety advocates claim that the device represents yet another distraction inside a moving motor vehicle. Privacy advocates are concerned that Google Glass can be used to stalk others, take unwanted photographs in private homes or at public events and perhaps be used to record conversations covertly.

Peter Schaub, a New York-based marketing and branding expert, believes the Google-VSP deal will provide “much more credibility” to Google Glass.

“Right now, Google Glass is something of a high-tech novelty that has the public curious ... but when you add in the factor of making the device double as your prescription glasses, I think that puts it in the mainstream.

“... The laws might ultimately say you can’t use Google Glass in certain private situations or when you’re driving. OK, that always happens with new technology, but regulating the use of the device does not change a need for prescription lenses.”


Call The Bee’s Mark Glover, (916) 321-1184.

Read more articles by Mark Glover





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