Last year VSP Global, the nation’s largest vision care provider, unveiled one of the latest advancements in digital health — a pair of regular-looking eye glasses with invisible activity tracking sensors built into the temple.
VSP started working with the University of Southern California’s (USC) Center for Body Computing in 2015 on something they called Project Genesis. Last month, they launched a four-month long pilot study for the latest prototype of their fitness tracking glasses called “Level.” Hundreds of participants are currently testing the innovative technology of this new wearable device that incorporates a step-tracking sensor into a pair of glasses.
The idea behind Level is that it’s much easier to remember to put on your glasses — which many people need to wear everyday anyways — versus something like Fitbit or Apple Watch. VSP hopes its glasses will attract consumers who have embraced earlier devices and provide them with a more consistent and convenient option.
Although VSP is an eye care product and service provider, the company has worked in the tech sector in the past, including teaming up with Google and providing them with subsidized frames with prescription lenses for Google Glass. Google’s futuristic-looking computerized headset has an embedded front-facing camera and a tiny screen above the right eye that displays a variety of information in a feed-like format. Google Glass went on sale in 2013, although it quickly became clear that the public considered the new tech product too noticeable and awkward to wear. Furthermore, the device was also not perceived as a general-purpose consumer type device.
As such, VSP took a different approach for Level, making its technological components invisible and hidden inside a normal-looking frame, thus doing away with the apprehension some had when it came to wearing a device like Google Glass in public.
Level looks nothing more than a simple pair of glasses and are undetectable on people wearing it. However, its left arm has a gyroscope, magnetometer, and accelerometer embedded into it that can track the activity duration, step count, distance traveled, and calorie count of the user.
Level then connects to a smartphone app that tracks the wearer’s activity and enables users to check their stats. The app also allows wearers to earn points whenever they achieve specific goals. Another popular feature of the digital wearable is “Find Your Glasses,” which can locate your misplaced frames through the app.
Leslie Muller, co-lead of VSP Global’s innovation lab, said developing Level forced them to reimagine the entire design process for eyewear. “With [Level], we’re now adding additional value to the frame, but doing so in a seamless, fully integrated design that creates a richer experience for the wearer,” said Muller. “Designers collaborated with firmware and biomedical engineers, who collaborated with traditional eyewear craftspeople to produce something that is both technologically advanced but also seamless and beautiful.”
Designed for both men and women, Level comes in a variety of colors and currently three different designs named after famous inventors: Nikola Tesla, Marvin Minsky and Hedy Lamarr. Its battery lasts for three days and needs only thirty minutes to fully charged. The glasses are also water-resistant.
At present, there are no plans to make the Level glasses available to the general public, but the prototype research test will publish its findings in 2017.