Ray Kurzweil, noted inventor, author, and futurist, once theorized that the rate of technological change is accelerating so rapidly that it will reach the point where we humans won’t really be able to keep up with it.
That could also serve to describe the state of the optical industry over the last several years. Where once optical moved at a snail’s pace, changes are coming so fast and furiously that it’s very, very hard to keep up. But keep up we all must, because this is one train that waits for no one.
Consider the following game-changing events and trends that are dominating optical discussions right now:
The wearables market and eyewear will grow. Google Glass popped out of nowhere two years ago and changed the way people think about eyeglasses. In that time, a host of other wearable products have come to market. As demand for this new category grows so, too, will the need for vision Rx accommodation. This is a new revenue stream that could yield billions in just a few years. Is optical ready to address it, or will Best Buy and other electronics retailers start providing Rx frames and lenses?
Online optical will attract more big players. It’s come a long way from the “glasses for $19.99” websites, when the likes of Warby Parker now makes the March 2015 cover of Wired magazine as the single “most innovative” company in the world. There’s no doubt that the clicks-and-mortar model will continue to gain more traction. And while this is all going on, watchdog organizations-like LegitScript, which currently scrutinizes online pharmacy businesses-will be having a look at Internet optical as well.
Diverse chain retailers will adopt optical. Everyone from supermarketers to drugstore re-tailers will be swapping out their lower-performing spaces for small footprint opticals. They’ll feature a limited number of popular frame styles and an on-site Rx lens and finishing source, all managed by a single optical professional for $50 to $100 per pair (without insurance).
The refraction process will change dramatically. As the phoropter prepares to celebrate its 100th birthday, there are myriad new technologies just waiting in the wings to take its place. From Internet- based refracting to “telemedicine” models, the process of refracting a patient will certainly undergo a sea change. And in many cases, yield a more accurate result than their century-old predecessor. There’s even the (ugh!) possibility that patients will be able to perform their own refractions.
They say life is full of surprises. We may not know when or how they’ll arrive, but it’s best to recognize that they’ll inevitably come.
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