Vision insurance company and eyewear maker VSP Global today announced the launch of its activity-tracking Level smart glasses.
The company’s new eyewear connects to a smartphone app that records daily steps, distance traveled, calories burned, and total activity time, and then compares the wearer’s progress in these metrics against that of their peers. Importantly, stressed Jay Sales, co-director of The Shop, VSP Global’s innovation lab, the glasses are a replacement for an accessory many already wear daily, as opposed to a completely new wearable.
“It’s seamlessly integrated into something that is already solving a problem, which is correcting vision,” Sales told MobiHealthNews. “These glasses are intended for those who [already] wear glasses, and want to track their activity.”
VSP’s smart glasses have already seen some modest success when it comes to promoting fitness. In September, NEJM Catalyst published results from a study in which researchers from the University of Southern California’s Center for Body Computing outfitted 284 participants with a prototype of the glasses.
While 80 percent of the 275 participants who completed enrollment used the glasses throughout the study, the researchers expressed disappointment at the gradually declining daily mean step total recorded over the course of the 15-week study. Still, the researchers noted that participants generally responded well to having their tracker embedded in prescriptive eyewear as opposed to a separate wearable, and that there was a significant correlation between activity and positive perceptions of the wearable and fitness app.
Sales said that the product being launched today is largely similar to the prototype used in the study, with some minor changes to the design of the eyewear’s charger and other changes to smooth out the “bumps and bruises” of the corresponding fitness app. By and large, though, the company’s interest in merging health and vision care remains.
“As a vision care company … it was about adding that health element to something that we already make,” Sales said. “We did, in the past, do work with Google around glasses. We learned from those things that you’ve got to make sure that ... how [users] are wanting to represent themselves, from a fashion point of view, is transferred in a seamless way. Again, that means making the glasses look as good as possible — in this case, looking better than most pairs of glasses — and not telegraphing the fact that there’s technology inside.”
Along with the glasses’ aesthetic design, Sales pointed to the connected and social aspects of the companion app as VSP’s answer to the user attrition that plagues most fitness wearables. He also highlighted a charity initiative run by the company — the Eyes of Hope initiative, wherein points earned through daily activity can lead to a comprehensive eye exam and new eyewear for those in need — as a proven motivator for those who purchase the Level smart glasses to continue logging their steps.
Currently, VSP plans to sell the eyewear among hundreds of independent optometry practices within certain US markets. The glasses will have an MSRP of $270, which does not include the lenses, although the company will allow its members to apply their benefits to the purchase.