Google Vision Partner VSP Preps for Google Glass Release

VSP, the company that will equip Google Glass devices with prescription lenses, is getting its facilities ready for the release of Glass.

Google Glass

VSP, the vision insurance vendor that will offer partial reimbursements for Google Glass frames and prescription lenses under a deal announced in January, is now getting a new facility in Maryland ready to make the lenses and assemble the units once Glass goes on sale to consumers.

While no official release date has yet been announced for retail Glass devices, the new VSP facility in Halethorpe, Md., is being completed to produce the special lenses and assemble Glass units that will be sold to U.S.-based retail customers, according to a March 24 story in The Baltimore Sun.

The new lab "has the technology needed to process orders for prescription Glass and expects to do so," company spokesman David Carr told The Sun.

Google has not yet announced a firm date for when Glass devices will be sold to consumers, but the company noted in 2013 that those sales are expected to occur this year.

Google Glass has been a topic of conversation among techies since news of the futuristic eyeglass-mounted computer devices first surfaced in 2012 at the Google I/O developer's conference. Developers at the show were offered the chance to buy early "Explorer" versions of Glass for $1,500 for testing and development. Glass was the hit of that conference.

Since the first Glass devices began shipping to Explorers in April 2013, some users have already been modifying their Glass units to work with prescription lenses, based on reports from users on social media sites and other sources. The Explorer versions sell for $1,500 each, plus shipping.

So far, early Glass "Explorer" testers—the devices are not yet available for retail sales—are able to choose from only four frames available for purchase, including curved, thin, split and bold frames, according to Google. All four available models are displayed on the Glass Website. Those frames were announced in January when Google revealed that vision insurance vendor VSP Global will offer reimbursements for Glass frames and lenses under a deal announced by the companies. VSP Global will cover a portion of Google Glass frames and prescription lenses for its insurance customers.

Attachable sun shades are also available in several styles for purchase under that program. The frames cost $225, while the shades sell for $150, according to Google. Users will have to check with VSP to find out how much of the fees are reimbursable under their vision plans.

Earlier in March, Google announced that it was partnering with eyeglass frame vendor The Luxottica Group to someday offer trendy frames from famous makers such as Ray-Ban, Oakley, Vogue-Eyewear and Alain Mikli as Glass units get closer to rumored retail production. Those plans give future Glass owners more fashion possibilities as more frames that work with Glass are developed.

The partnership is just getting under way, and it will likely be some time before additional Glass fashion frames are available for sale, according to Google. That means that Glass users won't be able to find Oakley or Ray-Ban frames and sunglasses right away, but that they will be in the pipeline.

Additional details on when Luxottica frames for Glass will be available will be released in the future, according to the companies. Much of that work will likely be done after the public release of Glass devices, when the market will be seeking such options, according to Google. Initially, at least, the deal with Luxottica will only be for products in the U.S. market.