Google in Talks to Create Prescription Lenses, Designs for Google Glass; Internet Giant Exploring Ways to Put High-Tech Eyewear in Optometry Offices

Google in Talks to Create Prescription Lenses, Designs for Google Glass

Internet Giant Exploring Ways to Put High-Tech Eyewear in Optometry Offices


Updated Nov. 22, 2013 5:52 p.m. ET

Google Inc. GOOG -0.21% ‘s new computer-powered glasses haven’t hit the shelves yet, but already efforts are afoot to keep them from becoming just a niche product for nerds. In a sign the eyeware industry and Google see a broader market for the technology, the Internet search giant is exploring ideas with at least one eyewear company to put the device in optometry offices around the country and create alternative designs.VSP Global—a nationwide vision benefits provider that also makes frames and lenses—is talking with Google about making more fashionable frames for the device, developing special prescription lenses to use with Glass and training optometrists to fit the device for customers, VSP Chief Executive Rob Lynch said.

The discussions are in early stages, and so far, the companies have no formal agreement. But VSP, which provides a vision plan for Google’s employees, would be a useful partner for taking Glass to Main Street. The company has a network of 30,000 eye doctors, and 60 million people are enrolled in VSP’s workplace and individual vision plans.

“Down the road I think this technology is going to blow up,” says Matt Alpert, an optometrist in Woodland Hills, Ca., who is on the board of VSP Global and is an early tester of Google Glass. “As soon as apps are developed that are relevant for your world, it will start to take off.”

The miniature computer is worn like lensless glasses and puts a tiny computer screen at the upper right-hand edge of the user’s vision. It largely responds to voice commands.

Aficionados who snap up new technology as soon as it becomes available are already hotly anticipating the device. But to reach a broader market, Google has to clear several hurdles, among them taming the device’s geeky image and adapting it for the more than 110 million Americans who are already wearing glasses to correct their vision.

Google has previously said it is working on frames that will allow for prescription lenses. The talks with VSP appear to be more extensive, however, involving discussions of distribution channels as well as specialized corrective lenses, according to people familiar with the talks.

Google Glass comes without lenses, so it’s theoretically possible to wear the device with regular glasses. But the experience isn’t great, people who obtained early models for testing said.

Another hurdle will be creating versions of the eyewear that consumers are comfortable wearing. “In its current form, it’ll be more of a niche early adopter product,” says Dr. Alpert.

If those hurdles can be cleared, Google Glass could find a bigger market. Early testers see lots of uses for the device.

One of those testers, Max Wood, chief of the volunteer fire department in Gray, Ga., said he’s excited about using Glass to enable commanders to relay information to firefighters at a fire, directing them to a missing child, for example. But that would require a version of the eyewear that would fit inside a sealed oxygen mask.

“The form factor is doable,” Mr. Wood says. “I would hope that they would possibly entertain a change for that.”

To spur new uses, Google this week released a new kit for software developers, giving them access to more of the eyewear’s digital features.

Ultimately, some of the bigger hurdles to wide adoption could be social. Mr. Lynch, VSP’s chief executive, was wearing his Glass device at The Wall Street Journal’s CEO Council conference in Washington, D.C., on Monday, drawing double-takes and questions from fellow executives.

But shortly before passing through a security cordon set up in anticipation of an appearance by President Barack Obama, Mr. Lynch decided to take the device back to his hotel room.

“It’s still pretty new,” he said. “Probably better not to take the chance.”

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (, the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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