VSP will cover Google Glass


San Francisco-VSP and Google have struck a deal to offer subsidized frames and prescription lenses for Google Glass, the Internet-connected eyewear.

“We know our 64 million members are seeing and hearing about Google Glass and how it will affect their lives and vision, so we are really focusing on the eye health management perspective,” said Jim McGrann, president of VSP Vision Care, VSP’s insurance division. “We see this whole concept of smart eyewear continuing to evolve as an opportunity to provide instant information.”

The hurdle to persuade people to wear a computer on their bodies is lower if the computer is attached to something they are already accustomed to wearing, like glasses or a watch.

Google’s design team, led by Isabelle Olsson, designed frames for Glass in four styles-made of lightweight titanium-partly because Glass’s processor and battery add weight.

“The key business model of the year for wearables is becoming embedded into the health care system,” said J.P. Gownder, an analyst studying wearable devices at Forrester Research, Cambridge, MA. “Selling wearable consumer electronics one-on-one to individual consumers is kind of a tough business.

“By embedding them into the health care system, you can reach a mass market,” he continued.

The Glass computing device, which costs $1,500 for people invited to buy the current version, will retail for several hundred dollars less than that later this year when Google introduces the consumer version. VSP will reimburse members based on their prescription lenses, but it will not subsidize the computer portion of Glass.

VSP and Google have also created a training program for optometrists to learn how to mount the Glass device on frames and fit Glass on people’s faces.

A VSP lab in Sacramento will cut the lenses for Glass frames as well.