Three years ago, the optical world was abuzz with talk about Google Glass, the first computer integrated into a pair of eyeglasses. Google Glass made a lot of news. There were the early adopters, there were the imitators. There were the cultural issues regarding privacy and overstepping one’s bounds. And there was talk about incorporating prescription lenses.
It was, to say the least, a cultural phenomenon. Celebrities as diverse as Oprah Winfrey and Prince Charles were wearing Glass. TV shows like The Simpsons and Saturday Night Live parodied it. The world’s largest eyewear supplier, Luxottica, formed a partnership with Google over it. And esteemed publications such as The New Yorker devoted pages of press to it.
Of course, we now know that it really wasn’t supposed to enter the consumer market when it did, and in fact, Google has moved it to its Enterprise distribution division. But, rumor has it that Glass 2.0 will be back in the consumer sector soon-perhaps by year-end 2015.
Regardless, many other suppliers have joined the smart eyewear fray-from Microsoft and Samsung to Intel (also a Luxottica partner company) and Epson-and more will certainly follow. Eyeglass World, the west coast optical chain operated by National Vision, has introduced the Vuzix M100 smart eyewear product (also supported by Intel), accommodating eyeglass wearers with Smart Gold ophthalmic lenses from Rochester Optical. And a brand-new player called PogoTec is preparing to enter the market with an eyewear product that can accommodate any pair of eyeglasses equipped with its patented temple track.
There are several points to be gleaned from this intelligence: The global wearables market will exceed $30 billion within three years, and smart eyewear will have a large share of that number; smart eyewear will become more versatile, providing everything from health monitoring to virtual reality; smart eyewear has the capacity to provide the optical marketplace with double-digit growth over the next few years; if today’s ECPs don’t learn how to service the Rx needs of smart eyewear consumers, then Best Buy will.
The time to get into the smart eyewear category is now. It requires some study, for sure, as the requirements for Rx lenses are different than conventional ophthalmic eyewear. But ultimately, the rewards for jumping in will be rich.
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