Land of the Giants

The day after Google announced they would partner with VSP on an Rx eyeglass collection for Glass, my sister emailed me. The subject line was “Google Glass Goes Mainstream” with a link to a newspaper story and she wrote, “Wow. What next.” What’s next indeed.

With this latest move, Google has dipped more than their big toe into the optical industry waters. By partnering with VSP Global, Google now has a much needed, extensive reach into the optical side of Glass, and will take full advantage of VSP’s strength in numbers which include more than 30,000 doctors covering more than 60 million members (that’s one in six people in the U.S. using VSP as their vision care provider).

As futuristic as Glass seems, Google had the foresight to realize that once the product hits the consumer market this summer, there will be high demand for Rx capability. And while Explorers were willing to put up with the “geek” factor of how Glass looked, many consumers still view eyewear as a fashion statement.

While the union of these two powerhouses is impressive, ECPs might want to seek out Google rivals who can offer alternative smartglasses at competitive price points. Companies like Rochester Optical are already developing Rx solutions for Glass and there are many other nonoptical companies who are mining the potential of wearables. ECPs need to be vigilant in monitoring the vision implications of this category as consumer awareness is sure to build.

What this all means for the independent, non-VSP eyecare practitioner is anyone’s guess. Will they be sitting on the sidelines as new opportunities for second-pair sales develop. Will contact lens sales skyrocket for wearers who don’t want to fuss with adapting Glass to their eyewear? It’s anyone’s guess how this will play out, but stay tuned…it’s sure to be a very interesting story. ■