Google is making Glass more accessible to consumers who need to wear prescription glasses or prefer to wear their Glass with shades.
Its new Titanium Collection of frames can accommodate prescription lenses. There are four new styles of frames in the collection: Bold, Curve (pictured below), Thin and Split.
Google studied the eyewear industry and frame styles before selecting four it felt would best accommodate the widest range of people, it said.
There are also two new detachable shades, Classic and Edge. These will be offered alongside the existing Active shade.
The new frames and shades were created by the Glass design team. Together with the five colors of Glass, users now have 40 different options for styles.
The frames and shades do not fundamentally change the way Google is offering Glass to users. Those who want to purchase one of the devices still need to go through Google’s selection process: They must register on an interest list or get an invitation to the program from an existing user (or “Explorer,” as Google calls them). However, the process is slightly more complex for users who wish to use prescription lenses.
Those customers can select and purchase their frames from the accessories section of the Glass website. The company has teamed up with Vision Service Plan to train eye care professionals in the U.S. on Glass and the frames. Once the user has received their Glass and frame, they can take their device to an eye care professional who will then fit prescription lenses to the frame.
Explorers with a prescription less than a year old can take the prescription, frames and Glass to an ECP. Though Explorers need only leave their frames with the ECP, they will need to take Glass with them for the final fitting.
Google noted that users can take their frames to any ECP, but only those on the list of Preferred ECPs on the Glass website have been trained to use Glass and measure and fit prescription lenses for them.
Google is not confirming the number of trained ECPs, but VSP already has trained people in New York City, San Francisco and Los Angeles, with plans to expand training in the coming months.
The frames will set Explorers back US$225, but some health insurance providers may reimburse the cost. The shades cost $150 each. Those costs are on top of the $1,500 Google charges for Glass.
At the moment, Glass is available only to U.S. residents who are accepted into the Explorer program. However, the company is careening toward a consumer launch in the latter part of 2014.
While the frames are the first official Google method of using prescription lenses with Glass, some Explorers have found ways of using their devices with prescription eyewear.
Earlier this month, authorities questioned an Ohio man who wore Glass at a movie theater. Agents and officers suspected he was recording the film using Glass until they were convinced he had the device turned off and was only wearing them because they were attached to his prescription glasses.
Even though the frames will open up Glass as an option for spectacle wearers for whom it previously would have been impractical, cost and other issues may keep Glass from being a far- from-enticing purchase for many.
“I think it makes it more attractive to consumers that have glasses, but the price and battery life are still unreasonable,” Jim McGregor, principal analyst at Tirias Research, told TechNewsWorld.
“It will attract a few more geeks, but most of those that want Google Glass probably already have it. It’s just too expensive and still not what it really should be from a product standpoint. Because of the limited battery size, you have to optimize around the sensors and connectivity. Hopefully we will see this and lower price points with future generations. If not, I would expect to see more competitive solutions for other companies in the near future.”
“I’d call Google’s move to adapt Glass for traditional prescription eyewear a modest, practical effort to expand its market appeal,” Charles King, principal analyst and Pund-IT, told TechNewsWorld.
“Till now, Glass has largely been limited to users with decent vision or who could wear contact lenses,” he noted.
“By enabling Glass to accommodate prescription-lensed eyewear, the company should broaden the pool of potential users” King added. “That said, this won’t make Google Glass a mainstream product by any stretch; until Google Glass prices fall substantially lower than the current $1,500, the technology is likely to remain ensconced in its luxury niche.”