Google Inc (GOOG) adds Glass prescriptions, partners with VSP

Posted Jan 28, 2014

It has been around 9 months since Google started to ship the Google Glass smart-glasses device. Now Google Inc (NASDAQ:GOOG) is offering eyeglass frames as a $225 upgrade for Google Glass users. Google Glass is not commercially available right now. The smart-glasses product are invitation-only and Google started by asking users to give a compelling reason about what they would do with the product.

The frames are made out of titanium and has four different styles. Each style has individualized thicknesses and shapes with 8 different color options. The frames should work with most prescriptions except for people that need thick frames. The frames can be fulfilled using VSP insurance to get a partial reimbursement. Google Glass product director Steve Lee said that corrective vision was the most common Glass feature request. There are currently 30,000 Google Glass users. Before Google launched their own prescription lenses, third parties started to build them.

The frames sold by Google are screwed into standard Google Glass units. It even helps Google Glass look more like a standard pair of glasses rather than a contraption that looks like it belongs in Star Trek.

Google is also now offering three options for sunglass shades, which can be twisted onto Glass. Google previously offered one option.  Switching between sunglasses and regular glasses requires a screwdriver, which is a bit of a nuisance. However, people can get prescription lenses that adapt to daylight if it is too much of a pain.

VSP insures one-fifth of Americans so this partnership is a big deal. “We know our 64 million members are seeing and hearing about Google Glass and how it will affect their lives and vision, so we are really focusing on the eye health management perspective,” stated Jim McGrann, president of VSP Vision Care. “We see this whole concept of smart eyewear continuing to evolve as an opportunity to provide instant information.”

Between the color, frame, and shade choices, there will be 40 style variations for Glass. Google Glass costs $1,500 and people have to be invited to buy the current version of the product. It will retail for several hundred dollars less than that price later this year when a consumer version is introduced. The average reimbursement through VSP for the frames will be around $120 plus the cost of the prescription lens purchase. The computer portion of Google Glass will not be subsidized. VSP has a lab in Sacramento that will cut the lenses for the Google Glass frames.

[Source: New York Times]