VSP Global Opens Innovation and R&D Lab

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VSP executives cut the ribbon last week opening The Shop, the company’s new innovation and R&D lab in Sacramento, Calif.

SACRAMENTO, Calif.—The recent collaboration between VSP Global, Google and designer Diane von Furstenberg that produced a fashionable take on Google Glass resulted from a new VSP Global initiative announced last week.

The stylish new versions of Glass emerged from The Shop, which VSP describes as “an innovation and R&D lab” dedicated to developing bringing futuristic products and processes for VSP’s customers. The Shop consists of two facilities. The midtown Sacramento facility, which VSP launched in September, 2013 but formally opened last week, is focused on developing digital technologies to deliver better eyecare and products to patients and better workflow services to doctors. The East Coast version of The Shop, located in Marchon’s design studio in midtown Manhattan, is exploring how to push the boundaries utilizing industrial design, 3D printing and other technologies to reinvent the way eyewear is created, utilized and worn, according to VSP.

The impetus behind The Shop grew when VSP recognized a need to take a fresh approach to delivering some of its products and services, said Jay Sales, a VSP executive who heads the new Sacramento facility.

“VSP has five lines of business: healthcare, vision care, the lens side, retail, and Marchon,” Sales pointed out. “The one place that hasn’t been disrupted is healthcare, and arguably, fashion, too. As we move toward digital healthcare and individualized healthcare, managing data effectively is a necessity, so there’s literally a push to get out in front of this,” Sales told VMail.

Leslie Muller, vice president of design for Marchon and head of The Shop in New York, added, “We’ve been designing eyewear for a while, using the same business model and same process for years. We started to see other types of business models popping up, and realized that this is a shift and it’s not going away. If VSP Global is not out in front of that and disrupting ourselves it would be a race to the bottom. So it was time to restart.”

The East and West Coast Shops will work closely together. “One does not exist without the other,” said Muller.
Among the areas the Sacramento lab is exploring is integrating data with optics in order to “program” a lens. “We’re looking at ways of using embedded intelligence,” said Sales.

Muller said East Coast Shop is exploring alternative methods for manufacturing eyewear. “We’re identifying the building blocks, almost like Legos but on the microscopic, nano level,” she said. Although Muller did not elaborate, she said that some of the experimental work is being done through a new collaboration between VSP and the Center for Bits and Atoms, a research lab that is part of the MIT Media Lab. She said VSP would announce details of the partnership in a few weeks.