Health & Medicine

New eyeglasses with tiny fitness tracker make debut in Sacramento

VSP pulled together industrial designers, engineers and color specialists to develop frames for the Level smart glasses. The unisex styles are named after some of history’s greatest innovators, including Nikola Tesla, Marvin Minsky and Hedy Lamarr, shown here.
VSP pulled together industrial designers, engineers and color specialists to develop frames for the Level smart glasses. The unisex styles are named after some of history’s greatest innovators, including Nikola Tesla, Marvin Minsky and Hedy Lamarr, shown here.

Rancho Cordova-based VSP Global embedded a tiny new fitness tracker into the temple of a new line of eyeglasses known as Level smart glasses, and the company is launching sales in the Sacramento region.

The device keeps track of information such as the number of steps taken, calories burned, distance traveled, and it transmits all the data via Bluetooth technology to a mobile app on smartphones. VSP suggests a retail price of $270. That does not include lenses.

“We're thrilled to … offer our members an opportunity to apply their vision care benefits toward the purchase of a meaningful wearable device," said Kate Renwick-Espinosa, president of VSP Vision Care, in a prepared statement. "Level combines expertise from the best of VSP Global's businesses, including health care, fashion, technology and philanthropy."

Although the new glasses make it less difficult to forget to wear a fitness tracker, researchers at the University of Southern California found that they won’t necessarily solve an issue that plagues wearable fitness trackers of all kinds. It can’t supply the motivation.

“The most important personality and subjective measure for predicting mean daily steps was satisfaction with life,” researchers Glenn Fox, Shaun Garland, Andrew Keibel and Leslie A. Saxon noted in an article published Sept. 14 on the New England Journal of Medicine’s Catalyst website. “This relationship is consistent with other reports that have shown that individuals demonstrating higher levels of emotional stability, extraversion, openness, agreeableness, and conscientiousness are more likely to exercise regularly.”

The research on the VSP wearable device was part of a larger initiative at USC that created a so-called Virtual Care Clinic to offer health care 24/7 outside the traditional, brick-and-mortar health-care facility. The Level smart glasses helped researches with efforts to understand how to motivate people to actively engage in their health care over time.

Individuals in the study tended to succeed and persevere through glitches with Level smart glasses if they enjoyed the exercise activity they had chosen. The study looked at the results of 275 people who used the device for 15 weeks. About 62 percent of participants reported intermittent problems with the eyeglass sensor syncing with the app, researchers said, and this may have affected usage.

Jay Sales, co-director of the VSP Global innovation lab known as The Shop, said the study provided an audience to test out and perfect the technology, and connectivity issues have been addressed.

“The ability to test the Level app with a large population across a wide range of devices allowed our team to identify and solve a number of syncing issues that we could apply to the development of the new Level smart glasses,” Sales said.

The overall attrition rate with the smart glasses prototype was about what is seen with other wearable devices, researchers said. Feedback revealed, however, that this was mostly a result of some of the syncing and UX issues, Sales said.

“Overwhelmingly, study participants highly valued the seamlessness and design of the form factor itself — the frames,” he said. “So we were able to iterate, apply the necessary fixes to the syncing and the UX, and are excited to debut a product that has already gone through extensive testing in the wild.”

The accompanying app allowed friends in the study to connect and send motivational messages, and VSP agreed to provide a free eye exam and prescription glasses to a child, senior citizen, veteran or homeless person who could not afford either if a participant met their daily step goals 50 times.

The activity of study participants improved if they opted to receive messages of encouragement from friends or updates on their altruistic effort. VSP said it will continue to offer users the opportunity to earn a pair of eyeglasses for people in need and to allow social networking through the app.

If you’re concerned about whether the Level smart glasses sensor is safe to wear so close to your brain, Sales said that Level smart glasses transmit 160 microwatts of output power via wireless connectivity while a cell phone transmits roughly 251 milliwatts — about 1,600 times as much as Level— and Wi-Fi transmits about 200 milliwatts of output power — about 1,250 times as much as Level.

“FDA research shows that there is no evidence to link health problems to prolonged exposure to radio frequency fields such as those produced by cell phones or wireless technology,” Sales said.



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