EssilorLuxottica’s Fabrizio Uguzzoni (l) and Norbert Gorny at Mido.
MILAN, Italy—With a massive combined group presence on the exhibition floor at the Mido exhibition here last weekend, EssilorLuxottica designed its customer interactions at the show to emphasize and illuminate a range of new digitally driven technologies across its business, from spectacles, to eye exams, learning systems, and omnichannel professional and retail services. Among these was the global reveal of a new approach to progressive lenses as the company showcased the next generation of Varilux, which will be coming to eyecare professionals in North America in early summer 2023. In an exclusive sit-down with VMAIL, senior executives previewed the new Varilux XR Series, what they describe as “the first eye-responsive progressive lens for instant sharpness in motion,” powered by behavioral artificial intelligence.

Norbert Gorny, co-chief operating officer of EssilorLuxottica and Fabrizio Uguzzoni, president of EssilorLuxottica Wholesale N.A. told VMAIL that the new PALs will not require eye doctors to do anything differently when determining a patient’s prescription. They said the patient's Rx information will be used with new AI predictive models, enabling wearers of the new PALs to benefit benefit from instant sharpness, even in motion, compared to other premium lenses, and up to 49 percent more vision volume compared to Varilux X, EssilorLuxottica's current flagship PAL.

The executives cited new data showing that today’s modern lifestyles result in peoples’ eyes moving 100,000 times a day to process all the visual information they are exposed to. Researchers from the company studied over 6,500 consumers to enrich their understanding of presbyopes’ lifestyles and visual challenges. The Group has gathered over one million data points to develop “a breakthrough behavioral modeling system that predicts how presbyope individuals will look at objects around them,” they said.

 Norbert Gorny points to the R&D and AI science behind the new approach to progressive lens technology to be launched later this year with VariluxXR.
"The power of artificial intelligence lies in the quantity, quality and variety of data and the way they’re analyzed, said Gorny of this initiative which began three-and-half years ago. “The insights we established from data collected from customer orders, real life wearer tests, in-store measurements and physiological models are exclusive to EssilorLuxottica. Thanks to the digital twinning technology, we can now establish a visual behavior profile for every single prescription and provide the first eye-responsive lens that respects the natural behavior of the eye.”

He also said that Varilux XR enables a new capability to calculate for a complete binocular vision approach for each wearer, something that offers faster adaptation for PAL wearers. “The input is the patient’s prescription, the PD and the fitting hight, that’s all we need,” Gorny stated. Added Uguzzoni, “The way the optometrist is measuring is not changing. They will not need to adjust what they do.”

Another point of distinction will be the progressive lens corridor area of the XR design, where there are opportunities for experienced eyecare professionals to make recommendations they feel could benefit a wearer. “So we are not forcing an experienced ECP into an artificially intelligent recommended corridor algorithm,” Gorny noted.

In addition, Varilux XR's ability to optimize shorter reading distances, the execs said, also points to a new opportunity to consider new and younger wearers as candidates as well as more mature wearers. Noted Uguzzoni, “Last year, one million of the first generation of Millennials turned 40. So let’s consider that very active late 30s- and early 40s-age customers are a whole new generation to address for their presbyopic needs and lifestyle through the new XR design.”

Uguzzoni added, “We have a whole new consumer campaign planned which will talk in a very different way about XR. This will speak to ECPs but also to consumers to educate and enlighten them. We expect this will start in April-May globally but also in the U.S. ahead of the launch. At Vision Expo East we will start to share everything about the launch, the R&D, details, pricing and more.”

Gorny said, “The story of Varilux goes back 65 years and it is the most widely sold brand of progressives in the world. But it is also an idea—how can you have the most natural vision for presbyopes? We consider Varilux XR a really big step in realizing this idea. The 16 years since the advent of the iPhone and other digital services that inform our lives and lifestyles every day means that peoples’ visual needs have changed.”

In independent third-party tests, 87 percent of consumers, mostly wearing premium progressive lenses, preferred Varilux XR series to their previous lenses, after trying them, with no change in their prescription. Ninety-five percent of wearers adapted to their new lenses on the first day, according to this large comparative study, Gorny said.