U.S. Vision Insurer to Cover Google Glass ; Deal May Help Bridge Health Care Industry and Consumer Electronics

By Miller, Claire Cain | International New York Times, January 29, 2014 | Go to article overview

U.S. Vision Insurer to Cover Google Glass ; Deal May Help Bridge Health Care Industry and Consumer Electronics


Miller, Claire Cain, International New York Times


The deal may bring wearable technology into the mainstream and lead to more cooperation between the health care and consumer electronics industries.

Google and VSP, the nation's biggest optical health insurance provider, have struck a deal to offer subsidized frames and prescription lenses for Google Glass, the Internet-connected eyewear.

The announcement could take wearable devices, which technology analysts say are the next wave of computing, out of the realm of science fiction and into the mainstream by making them more affordable and giving them a medical stamp of approval. And it opens the door to a new level of cooperation between the health care and consumer electronics industries, which could lead to a world in which people wear or even ingest computers.

"The key business model of the year for wearables is becoming embedded into the health care system," said J.P. Gownder, an analyst studying wearable devices at Forrester, which predicts that computers that people can ingest, tattoo on their skin or embed in a tooth are three to five years from being a medical reality.

"Selling wearable consumer electronics one on one to individual consumers is kind of a tough business," Mr. Gownder said. "By embedding them into the health care system, you can reach a mass market."

The agreement with VSP, which insures one-fifth of Americans, is also a coup for Google, which plans to begin selling Glass to the public this year. Resistance to Glass has grown from privacy fears that the devices could be used to secretly record conversations or take photos. Some establishments have banned Glass wearers, and just this month, a man in Ohio was removed from a movie theater and interrogated after wearing Glass to a movie. With traditional-style frames and prescription lenses, which Glass did not have before, the computer and screen for the device are less evident and the device looks more typical -- and is available even to people who wear glasses.

Some early Glass owners hacked Glass to add prescription lenses, sunglasses and other accessories.

"What I've noticed in public is I get less interaction with people" when wearing Glass with frames, said Steve Lee, product management director for Google Glass. …

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