USC Center for Body Computing, VSP Global launch study with tech-infused eyeglasses

By Heather Mack
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The University of Southern California’s Center for Body Computing is partnering with VSP Global, which provides vision insurance and operates several eye care companies, to launch a study and consumer pilot test with the latest version of the company’s tech-embedded eyewear.

Level, the glasses, will host a bevy of technology within the frames – including a gyroscope, accelerometer and magnetomer – that sync with a companion app. The glasses will track a wearer’s steps, calories burned and activity time, and will also users to locate misplaced frames through the app’s “Find my Glasses” feature.

VSP Global has been looking to expand into the wearable space for awhile, and has partaken in other projects employing smart glasses and activity tracking technology. The company is exploring ways to personalize or enhance traditional medical records with context from daily living. By getting raw biometric data from the wearable and layering it into a patient’s medical record, the information may create actionable insights over time and lead to a more holistic understanding of an individual’s health.

“We’ve found that a visit to the eye doctor is often a person’s entry point into the healthcare system,” VSP Global Board Member Ryan Wineinger said in a statement. “In addition to identifying conditions like glaucoma, cataracts, and macular degeneration, comprehensive eye exams can also detect signs of other serious health conditions such as diabetes, high cholesterol and even multiple sclerosis. To explore how technology inside a frame can further strengthen the link between a patient and their eye doctor is a natural extension to the role the eyes play in overall health and wellness today.”

The pilot study launches this month with USC employees and will be managed by the university’s Center for Body Computing in partnership with the Roski Eye Institute. Each participate will receive a Level frame and companion app, which will synch with VSP Global’s Eyes of Hope Initiative, which raises money to invest in free eye care and eyewear. Participants will accrue points in the app for reaching daily step goals, and once a certain number of points are achieved, it will automatically trigger the donation of a comprehensive eye exam and a pair of glasses to someone in need.

“As a community-based not-for-profit, we’re curious not only about the technology and how it can benefit the individual utilizing it, but also about the motivations that drive certain behavior,” Jay Sales, co-leader of The Shop said in a statement. “Connecting Level to our Eyes of Hope initiative was a perfect way to  explore how technology within a platform as common as eyewear could increase health and wellness as well as empathy and opportunity for someone in need.”

Level is still in prototype mode, and was developed through VSP Global’s innovation lab, The Shop. Last year, The Shop debuted another version of the glasses, which were the company’s first wearable prototype to integrate health-tracking technology.

In other mobile vision news, San Francisco-based Digisight Technologies began a clinical trial testing its Paxos Checkup app against standard assessments of macular degeneration in about 150 patients.