Eye care conglomerate VSP builds activity tracking glasses

By Jonah Comstock
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glasses VSPVSP Global, a business that operates vision benefits plan VSP Vision Care as well as several other eye care companies, has built a pair of glasses with activity tracking sensors built in. The project, called Project Genesis, comes out of VSP's innovation lab The Shop.

"We’re looking at a really exploding market in the wearable space," VSP Global CEO Jim McGrann told the Wall Street Journal in a recent video interview. "One of our businesses is an eyewear company and we’re focused on building those wearables into the eyewear that people wear every day to improve their overall health and wellness.

The glasses track steps, calories burned, activity time and distance traveled, all from a chipset built into the earpiece. The glasses, built by Marchon, another VSP company, look just like regular glasses. But they connect via Bluetooth to a smartphone app, where wearers can look at an aggregate view of their metrics.

“Eyewear has been the most successful piece of ‘wearable technology’ for over 700 years,” Leslie Muller, one of the project leads at The Shop, said in a statement. “With Genesis, we’re now adding additional value into the frame, but doing so in a seamless, fully integrated design that creates a richer experience for the wearer.”

The prototype is being beta tested internally with 26 VSP Global employees in the company's Sacramento, California headquarters. After that, VSP is seeking partners to deploy and develop the technology further. Once the technology is ready for a wider deployment, the goal will be to help VSP's members better manage their health.

"We have 75 million members in our insurance program and we’re focused on their overall health and wellness," McGrann told the WSJ. "So we’re hoping that they’ll be willing to adopt this and then participate in different studies where the data can be used to help other members as they work through similar difficulties in their own lives."

The project has been under development for the last 14 months, and VSP will continue to iterate, adding more sensors and more frame designs. Jay Sales, the other project lead, said in a statement that step tracking is just the beginning.

"Ultimately, this is not about just tracking steps and calories," he said. "The goal with this project is to build on these initial capabilities and, in the future, provide our members with contextual health data about themselves that they can then use to feel empowered and make better decisions in their lives.”