Isabelle Olsson, lead designer for Google Glass.
NEW YORK—Google Glass is taking a big step closer to the mainstream consumer market, and to the optical industry, with Google's release today of its first prescription eyeglass collection for Glass.

Although Google's proprietary smartglass is still in beta test and is currently being offered only to Glass Explorers—an exclusive group of early adopters—the availability of an Rx-able version of Glass could significantly expand the potential market for the device once it goes into full release later this year. Anticipating increased demand for Glass, Google has formed a partnership with VSP Global that will eventually enable Explorers to tap into a network of 30,000 VSP providers throughout the country who will be trained and certified to fit Glass.

"Our partner, VSP, will be continuously training and bringing ECPs onboard to help fit Explorers in major cities. While we don't go into specific numbers, we've had trainings already in New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles and we'll continue to expand on that in the months ahead," Google told Explorers in an FAQ issued today.


Google said that after ordering Glass prescription frames through the Glass website, Explorers can see the list of trained VSP doctors, which is also available on Explorers can then take their Glass frame to a VSP doctor who can measure them for the device, order prescription lenses through the VSPOne Sacramento laboratory, and then fit the finished eyewear. The program is open to all Explorers, regardless if they are a VSP member or not, according to VSP Global.

Jim McGrann, president of VSP Vision Care, told VMail that VSP wants to make sure Explorers are working with VSP providers who understand the nuances of fitting Glass. "They have to understand how that prism [in Glass's display) works and where it needs to be set. That's why Google wanted to have a certified group of doctors to make this program successful."

McGrann said Google's partnership with VSP Global has been evolving for more than a decade, particularly the last two-and-a-half years when Glass was developed.

"VSP Global companies have helped to provide Google with access to experts in all facets of the optical industry," said McGrann, who added that VSP has been providing vision and eyewear benefits to Google employees for about 15 years. "This has provided them with an opportunity to learn about everything from products to services to manufacturing to how eyecare providers run their practice and how consumers are connected to those providers. So it's been a great resource for Google to understand the entire process from start to finish as they develop and offer optical-related technologies."

McGrann said that Glass would be a covered benefit for VSP members who go to VSP doctors. "We would reimburse them up to their frame allowance, and lenses would be covered under their standard plan," he noted.

The Glass frames cost $225 (minus the Glass display and electronics, which cost an additional $1,500); Glass "shades," which are not Rx-able sun shields, cost $150.

With the release of its prescription eyewear collection, Google has created a sleek new look and feel for Glass that de-emphasizes techno-geek styling in favor of a more conventional and practical fashion statement. The new prescription collection features complete eyeglass frames that are fully integrated with Glass's heads-up display and temple-mounted electronics. Previously, Glass wearers requiring corrective lenses had to wear their glasses underneath a thin titanium headband attached to the Glass display, which proved awkward for wearers.

"From the beginning we've wanted to give our Explorers more choice," Isabelle Olsson, lead designer for Google Glass, told VMail. "We initially launched Glass with five colors. Today, we're excited to announce four new Glass frames along with two shades that combined will allow our Explorers to create up to 40 different style combinations. Not only will Explorers be able to make Glass their own, this new collection marks a step into an era where glasses go beyond helping people see."

Olsson said the four styles in the prescription Glass collection are: Split, Curve, Thin and Bold. They are all made of titanium and are available in five colors.

Olsson said she and her design team followed several main principles when creating the collection. "We wanted to make sure that, even with all this technology, the frames would feel light on the face," she said. "Another design principle is simplicity. Also, we wanted scalability, and to create designs that can evolve over time."

Click here to see a Google video of the new prescription eyewear collection for Glass.