Eyewear Is Now a Vehicle for Technology

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Last month, I went to the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), the annual mega-conference and trade show in Las Vegas that serves as the launching pad for new technologies ranging from entertainment to wireless devices, digital imaging and photography, audio, video, automobiles—and eyewear. Although eyewear was not specifically featured at CES, it was there and in a variety of guises.

Most obvious were the thongs of show attendees wearing 3D glasses. They seemed to be everywhere, watching vivid demonstrations of 3D TV and video content and playing games on screens of all sizes.

Then there were vendors whose products feature electronic displays that are mounted in, attached to, or projected onto an eyeglass frame, sunglass or goggle. These displays deliver data and images the same as a computer, smartphone or tablet. They have online connectivity and Bluetooth. Some have built-in video cameras and some feature Augmented Reality (AR) capabilities, similar to Google’s Project Glass.

At CES, I met several vendors who showed eyewear-like products that promised health and wellness benefits. One showcased a frame-mounted device that monitors the wearer’s heart rate and can be programmed for various athletic workouts. Another offered a system that utilizes sound and colored rhythmic lights to enable the mind to “let go and focus.” I also tried out a sunglass-like device that emits a soft green light that resets the body’s internal clock.

My takeaway from CES is that eyewear has become more than just a medical device or a fashion statement. Now it’s also a vehicle for new technologies for communication, entertainment, education and wellness. ECPs and optical retailers need to understand how their patients are using these technologies and how they impact vision. That will help them decide what role these new types of eyewear might play in their practices and dispensaries.

akarp@jobson.com