Google Glass prescription frames and shades now being offered

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 29 January, 2014, 4:31pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 30 January, 2014, 9:57am

Google Glass is getting glasses.

The computerised, internet-connected goggles don't actually come with lenses. Starting this week, Google is offering an optional attachment for prescription lenses and new styles of detachable sunglasses.

The move comes as Google prepares to make Glass available to the general population later this year. Currently, Glass is available only to the tens of thousands of people who are testing and creating apps for it.

Watch: Google Glass gets a makeover

Glass is basically a small computer, with a camera and a display screen above the wearer's right eye. The device sits roughly at eyebrow level, higher than where eyeglasses would go.

It lets wearers surf the web, ask for directions and take photos or videos. Akin to wearing a smartphone without having to hold it in your hands, Glass also lets people read their e-mail, share photos on Twitter and Facebook, translate phrases while travelling or partake in video chats. Glass follows some basic voice commands, spoken after the words, "OK, Glass".

The gadget itself is not changing with this announcement. Rather, Google plans to make attachments available for people who wear glasses or sunglasses.

The Mountain View, California, company is now offering four styles of frames for prescription lenses. It's also offering two new types of shades, in addition to the one previously available. The frames cost US$225 and the shades US$150. That's on top of the US$1,500 price of Glass.

Users can take the frames to any vision care provider for prescription lenses. Google says it is working with insurance provider Vision Service Plan (VSP) to train eye-care providers around the US on how to work with Glass.

Google says some insurance plans may cover the cost of the frames. VSP, which covers 64 million people in the US, will also provide coverage for the frames and prescription lenses as part of its partnership with Google. VSP's typical coverage allowances for frames can range from US$80 to US$160.

Isabelle Olsson, the lead designer for Google Glass, says the new frames open the spectacles up to a larger audience.

She demonstrated the new frames last week at the Google Glass base camp, an airy loft on the eighth floor of New York City's Chelsea Market. It's one of the places where Glass users go to pick up their wares and learn how to use them. Walking in, visitors are greeted, of course, by a receptionist wearing Google Glass.

"We want as many people as possible to wear it," she said.

To that end, the Glass designers picked four basic but distinct frame styles. On one end is a chunky "bold" style that stands out. On the other is a "thin" design - to blend in as much as is possible.

Olsson said Google wouldn't be able to compete with the thousands of styles offered at typical stores that sell eyeglasses. Instead, the Glass designers looked at what types of glasses were most popular, what people wear the most and, importantly, what they look good in.

Google Glass currently comes in five colours — "charcoal", a lighter shade of grey called "shale", white, tangerine and bright blue "sky". The frame attachments are all titanium.