A deal between Google and an eyeglasses vendor could be in the works to help Google sell prescription versions of Google Glass when the eyewear-mounted computer devices are expected to go on sale in 2014.
"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," Rob Lynch, the chief executive of VSP, told The Wall Street Journal in a Nov. 22 report. The article added that "the discussions are in early stages, and so far, the companies have no formal agreement."
The possibility is intriguing nonetheless because it adds interesting possibilities to Google's previously acknowledged plans to create a version of Glass that could be used by people who wear eyeglasses. VSP already provides vision plan services for Google's employees, The Wall Street Journal reported, and is a major provider in the eye health marketplace, with a network of 30,000 eye doctors, covering some 60 million people insured in its plans.
Google Glass doesn't come with traditional lenses, but some users have modified them to work with their own existing eyeglasses. Still, to make Glass work with prescription eyeglasses, an integrated approach like an agreement with a company like VSP is probably a good idea to help such a project succeed.
One early Google Glass user, Matt Alpert, an optometrist in Woodland Hills, Calif., who is on the board of VSP Global, told The Journal that he believes a move to adapt Glass to eyeglasses would be huge. "As soon as apps are developed that are relevant for your world, it will start to take off," he told the newspaper.
The Google-VSP talks appear to involve discussions of "distribution channels as well as specialized corrective lenses, according to people familiar with the talks," the paper reported.
Google doesn't presently have a partnership with VSP when it comes to Google Glass.
In an email response to an eWEEK inquiry about the report, a Google spokesman replied: "We have said for some time that we are working to bring Glass prescription frames to our Explorers, and we've created prototypes that members of the Glass team are actively testing. Beyond that, we don't comment on rumor or speculation."
Earlier in November, Google offered a sneak peek at its Glass Development Kit (GDK), which will soon be unveiled to allow developers to gain even broader control and innovation in their next designs and features for Google Glass apps. The GDK is an add-on to the Android Software Developers Kit that lets developers build Glass apps, called Glassware, that run directly on Glass. Unlike the Mirror API, Glassware built with the GDK runs on Glass itself, allowing access to low-level hardware features, according to Google.
In a related Google+ post, Google revealed that five additional useful and innovative Glass apps are now available for use by Glass Explorer users. The new apps were built using the new GDK, according to Google.
Earlier in November, Glass users were treated to device software updates that added several improvements, including the ability to access their personalized Google Calendar appointments and upcoming events while using Glass. Also added in the update is an easier first-time set-up process and simpler commands for using Glass to go to work or to get home.
In October, Google began a new Glass program that allows existing users to invite up to three friends to buy their own eyewear-mounted computers now, before they go on sale to the general public sometime later this year. The invite-a-friend program is being viewed by Google as a way to expand its Glass Explorer Program, which is the name used for the first test users of the innovative devices. Existing early Glass users will also now have a one-time chance to trade in their current Glass devices for the latest model, which includes improvements and updates.
Google Glass has been a topic of conversation among techies since news of it first surfaced in 2012. The first Google Glass units began shipping in April 2013 to developers who signed up at the June 2012 Google I/O conference to buy an early set for $1,500 for testing and development, at which it was the hit of the conference. Google also then began shipping Glass units to lucky users who were selected in the #ifihadglass contest for the opportunity to buy their own early versions of Glass.
Each Google Glass device includes adjustable nose pads and a high-resolution display that Google said is the equivalent of a 25-inch high-definition screen from 8 feet away. The glasses also feature a built-in camera that takes 5-megapixel photos and video at 720p. Audio is delivered to wearers through their bones, using bone-conduction transducers.