Eyeglasses, the original Health Tech wearable, may soon take on additional roles. Today those of us who wear glasses do so to correct impaired vision and to protect our eyes. VSP Vision Care has designed eyeglass frames with embedded sensors that have immediate applications in fitness, but may soon find additional use in vision and health care.
The new frames were developed in the company’s innovation lab, The Shop. VSP calls the frames Level. Level frames currently have three sensors embedded in the temple including a magnetometer, an accelerometer, and a gyroscope. The sensors are used to track steps, calories burned, and activity time. An accompanying smartphone app, which connects to the frames via Bluetooth, records Level wearer activity and can also be used to locate misplaced frames. The Level frames aren’t available for purchase yet. To date, they’ve only been used in employee testing. One application ready to go is a charitable program called VSP Eyes of Hope by which accrued activity points result in a donated comprehensive eye exam and glasses to someone who can’t afford them.
So far Level may sound like a fitness wearable, but that’s just the first “level” of the project. VSP has partnered with the University of Southern California’s Center for Body Computing for a larger test with USC employees. And it’s not just about fitness and accruing points for charity. VSP is not revealing the specific purpose of the USC study, but has stated it is also working with the USC Roski Eye Institute. The study will gather data from the test group users in order to proceed with next iterations of platform development. It sounds like the intent is to use the Level frames with current and potential future sensors to gather data not only about problems with vision and diseases of the eye, but also other major health threats.
“We’ve found that a visit to the eye doctor is often a person’s entry point into the healthcare system,” said VSP Global Board Member Ryan Wineinger, OD. “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.”
Eyeglasses have the advantage among wearables of familiarity and normalcy. You already know how to wear them and no one will look at you oddly if you’re wearing what appear to be a regular pair of glasses. While we don’t know specifics about the applications The Shop and USC have in mind for Level, the potential is exciting.