Google Glass is going mainstream for anyone with the right vision insurance coverage and a few hundred dollars for out-of-pocket costs. This wearable computing device has taken the tech world by storm since its limited launch in 2013, which involved an invitation-only group of Glass explorers who were contractually bound to use the devices within Google’s strict terms of service and a $1,500 outlay for the device.
Expectations for widespread applications of Google Glass have remained high even past the beta testing phase. Raising anticipation even more, it was announced today that VSP, one of the nation’s largest vision health insurance providers, entered an agreement with Google Inc., to offer coverage for frames and prescription-based lenses for the Google Glass device.
The implications of this cooperative effort between the device maker and an insurance provider are far reaching. The effort suggests that Google is preparing its Internet-enabled wearable device for mainstream marketing. As many Google Glass explorers discovered during the early days of the device, Glass is viewed with some trepidation that it may be invading the privacy of non-users as they share public spaces with Glass wearers. With limited information as to its true capabilities and purposes, Glass was suspicious even by law enforcement standards.
Much was made of the story of a California woman who was issued a driving citation for driving while wearing Google Glass. In a different incident, a moviegoer in Ohio was subjected to interrogation for wearing Glass to the movies.
However, the Google-VSP effort indicates that the device is not limited to weird sci-fi applications for geeks and tech-savvy individuals with money to burn on the latest gadgets. With vision insurer VSP onboard, Google Glass will take its place as a consumer device that may prove useful in enhancing vision health, monitoring certain conditions and improving medical decision making. Already, Google Glass is being manufactured with prescription lenses and sunglasses. Surgeons recognize the potential of Google Glass in operating rooms where the lead physician can record, live stream and consult with colleagues during the procedure to improve patient outcome.
Currently, Google Glass is made with lightweight titanium. Clip-on sunglasses will be available later this year. The consumer version of Google Glass will retail for less than the $1,500 that explorers paid. VSP coverage will pay for part of the costs of the titanium frames and the prescription lenses, depending on the vision plan. Insurance will not reimburse consumers for costs related to the computer components of Google Glass.