RANCHO CORDOVA, Calif.—The University of Southern California (USC) Center for Body Computing (CBC) and VSP Global are launching an academic study and consumer pilot test with the latest version of VSP’s tech-enabled eyewear, Level.

VSP Global’s innovation lab, The Shop, debuted an early version of the prototype in 2015 as Project Genesis—a wearable that integrates health-tracking technology into the temple of an optical frame. A partnership with USC CBC followed soon after to harness the CBC’s multidisciplinary experts in digital health technology and to collaborate with The Shop on engineering future versions of the frame and platform.

“Our partnership with VSP Global will accelerate research and discovery as to how to create digital health products and experiences that will elevate, enhance and expand the lives of users,” said USC CBC founder and executive director Leslie Saxon, MD. “This study is the first of its kind and will provide a crucial roadmap for validating future products and platforms and for understanding overall consumer health engagement.”

The pilot study launches this month with USC employees and will be managed by USC CBC in partnership with USC Roski Eye Institute, VSP Global said. Participants will receive a Level frame and accompanying smartphone app that will allow them to track their activity.

The app will also sync with the VSP Global’s Eyes of Hope initiative. Participants will accrue points in the app for reaching daily step goals. Once a certain number of points are achieved, that user will automatically trigger the donation of a comprehensive eye exam and a pair of glasses to someone in need.

“As a community-based not-for-profit, we’re curious not only about the technology and how it can benefit the individual utilizing it, but also about the motivations that drive certain behavior,” said Jay Sales, co-lead of The Shop. “Connecting Level to our Eyes of Hope initiative was a perfect way to explore how technology within a platform as common as eyewear could increase health and wellness as well as empathy and opportunity for someone in need.”

Though still in prototype mode, the technology embedded within the Level frames—including a gyroscope, accelerometer and magnetometer—will track a wearer’s steps, calories burned, and activity time. Users will also be able to locate misplaced frames through the app’s “Find My Glasses” feature.

The study will also provide useful feedback on how individuals interact with the device, which will inform future iterations and strategies for the prototype. Select eye care providers within the VSP network will also have an opportunity to test and provide feedback about the Level experience.

The frames were developed by The Shop’s team of industrial designers, engineers and color specialists. Each of the three unisex styles come in a number of modern colorways and are named after notable innovators such as Nikola Tesla, Marvin Minsky and Hedy Lamarr.

“The new Level frames forced us to reimagine the entire design and manufacturing process for eyewear,” said Leslie Muller, co-lead of The Shop. “Designers collaborated with firmware and biomedical engineers, who collaborated with traditional eyewear craftspeople to produce something that is both technologically advanced but still seamless and beautiful. As with any wearable, Level is as much about fashion and individual expression as it is about the brilliant technology inside.”

The Level frames were produced in collaboration with Marchon Eyewear’s manufacturing facility in Puos d’Aplago, Italy. Marchon Eyewear is a business unit of VSP Global.

As with earlier versions of the platform and a recent partnership announcement with Vizzario Inc., Level is an example of how VSP Global is exploring the concept of contextual health, the idea of enriching and personalizing traditional medical records with context from daily living.

“We’ve found that a visit to the eye doctor is often a person’s entry point into the healthcare system,” said VSP Global board member Ryan Wineinger, OD. “In addition to identifying conditions like glaucoma, cataracts, and macular degeneration, comprehensive eye exams can also detect signs of other serious health conditions such as diabetes, high cholesterol and even multiple sclerosis. To explore how technology inside a frame can further strengthen the link between a patient and their eye doctor is a natural extension to the role the eyes play in overall health and wellness today.”

The Level pilot will run through December, with published results expected in early 2017, VSP Global said.

See the Level video below.