When Google launches a new product, it makes waves throughout the tech community and beyond. Last year’s release of Glass, the company’s wearable computer with an optical head-mounted display, was no exception. Originally obtainable only to those who applied and received invitations to the Google Glass Explorer Program, the device became available to the general public in May.
That’s not to say the barrier to entry isn’t still steep: The price for Glass is a cool $1,500. Earlier this year, Google released four frames for Glass, called the Titanium Collection, designed to work with prescription lenses. The frames set consumers back an additional $225. In June, Google announced a new collection of frames and shades for Glass, in collaboration with fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg. Called DVF/Made for Glass, the collection features five new frames and eight new shades. A Google-Luxottica partnership for Glass frames and shades is also in the works.
There aren’t a lot of Glass users yet, let alone a lot of prescription Glass users, so optometrists’ exposure to the product is limited. (But growing: This spring, four optometry offices–one in Chicago, three in California–began selling Glass onsite). After becoming a VSP Glass preferred provider in March, Shu-Chuan Wang, OD ’97–who works in the San Francisco Bay Area community of Livermore–saw her first (and so far only) Glass patient. We spoke with her about the experience.
“In February, VSP hosted a meeting just for optometrists at a restaurant in San Jose. Along with Obamacare, the meeting addressed Google Glass. We all got a chance try on Glass to experience what it’s like, and some representatives told us about what Glass can do.
When considering whether to become a Glass preferred provider, I figured, ‘What the heck, I need to be different.’
“There are only two providers in Livermore, and I’m the smallest office. When considering whether to become a Glass preferred provider, I figured, ‘What the heck, I need to be different.’ I’m situated next to a Costco, so it was a strategic move. Costco eye doctors are partial VSP providers, but they cannot be Glass preferred providers. I asked VSP about how much Costco can take. They said, ‘They take 60 percent of the plans, but you can take 100 percent of the plans. If they see you, they have more money to spend. If they go to Costco, they have less money to spend.’ Reimbursement depends on the VSP plan. You don’t charge the frame; you only get reimbursed for the lenses you recommend.
“Before becoming a preferred provider, VSP and Google require you to watch a 20-minute webinar, and then you have to take a quiz on it. The webinar teaches you how to put Glass on once the prescription is in. We can adjust certain parts of the frame, but we can’t adjust anything that’s electronics-based. The video didn’t specify the prescription has to be between -4.00 and +4.00. I had to look it up in VSP’s Glass FAQs.
“I became a preferred provider at the end of March, about four to six weeks after the meeting. Once you’re a preferred provider, you’re sent a welcome letter, a logo sticker to put in your office and 50 brochures. I was surprised that the brochure didn’t summarize the key points from the webinar. Same thing with the meeting: You’re hoping you retain 80 percent of what was said, and you’ll probably forget 20 percent. A summary sheet would help.
“The VSP lab assembles the prescription, but we have to know if the patient doesn’t feel comfortable reassembling the Glass part to the frame. We have to know how to do that. My patient, an orthopedic surgeon, did it all himself. He was really calm, he just knew what to do.
“He had selected one of the four frames from the Titanium Collection. The frame was super curved, and I was afraid the PD was off. After I submitted the frame, I called the VSPOne lab, which is the only lab that can fill Glass prescriptions right now. They said, ‘You’re calling the wrong place. There’s a VSP Google Glass helpline to get those questions answered.’ I was told not to worry. I asked my patient if he needed any adjustments because he was super tall, and he seemed pretty happy.
“My first order was quite time consuming. I didn’t know what needed to be done or how the shipping process worked. I just felt like I was thrown in the dark.
“As for my personal experience with Glass, which I tried out at the meeting in San Jose, I wasn’t quite impressed. I think there may be some fatigue issues after a while for the user. The optical display is set at 11.5 feet, not 20. I think there will be more car accidents. You’re supposed to be able to drive with Glass, but I don’t know–it’s hard enough to keep focused on the road.
“Also, the display is so small. When you look at it, there are four lines: a map, and three lines for the menu. I had some trouble concentrating. Maybe it was hard for me to focus on it because I’m accommodative insufficient and convergence insufficient.
“I don’t think my patient is having similar issues yet, but it’s too soon to know. He’s an emerging presbyope. I checked and it looks like there may be a bit of a possibility of some accommodation issues. I can’t say yet because he refused to get bifocals.
“I only have one colleague who’s bought Glass. I chose not to because I won’t have any use for it. I can use my smartphone. I’m from the suburbs of San Francisco and I don’t see a lot of people walking around wearing Glass. But if you get closer to San Jose, you see more. Do I predict that Glass will overtake the iPhone? I don’t think so.”