Where on earth is tech headed in the optical—and is smart eyewear really salable? One innovative O.D. shares how he is emboldening his bottom line with smart specs.

On Hannah: Level smart glasses from VSP Global
Photo by Jurgen Reisch

Technology rules.

Just look at today’s retail environment—and today’s consumer products from smart eyewear to self-driving cars—and it’s clear that technology is fundamentally changing the retail landscape. Forever.

The good news? The Internet isn’t replacing brick and mortar. It’s enhancing and personalizing the experience. Since 30% of consumers surveyed told Capgemini Consulting last year that they’d rather be at home washing dishes than shopping, retailers are responding by adding more consumer-facing technologies and products to entice in the in-store experience.

Savvy retailers aren’t just embracing technology, though. They’re selling it. With companies like VSP, Snap, Vuzix, ODG, and Sony leading the pack, at least 15 companies are creating AR smart glasses today.

But, is high-tech, smart eyewear really salable?

That’s exactly what we asked Palmer Lee, O.D., a partner in EYEcenter Optometric with four locations in the Sacramento Valley and Sierra Nevada foothills of Northern California.

The group embraces technology while striving to create a superior patient experience, so VSP Global’s new Level smart glasses—wearable technology in an optical package—is a natural fit. It is designed to seamlessly integrate activity-tracking technology into style-honed eyewear.

Here, Dr. Lee shares his experience selling smart eyewear in the optical.


» The Fit

EB: Please tell us how smart eyewear is a good fit for your office.

PL: EYEcenter Optometric is committed to innovation and technology that will enhance the patient experience. The Level technology enhances that experience even more. I continually hear comments such as “I like that your office is on the leading edge of technology” or “I always learn something new when I come in.”

» Ocular Health

EB: What’s the link to a patient’s ocular health?

PL: There is a powerful connection between ocular health and overall health and wellness. The technology in Level smart glasses allows you to track steps, calories, distance, and activity time. So, if this information can lead a patient to live a more active and engaged lifestyle, the trickle-down benefits—such as better ocular health—mean I can do a better job of caring for my patients and supporting overall health and wellness.

» Target Market

EB: Who is a candidate for smart glasses?

PL: I wear Level, so I am talking to most of my patients about this technology. I see the target age from the late 20s and up. Even patients in their 80s can benefit from this technology.

» Game-Changer

EB: How is today’s tech different?

PL: For years, we’ve talked about UV protection—and, in recent years, blue light protection—so technology in eyewear is something our patient base is used to hearing about. However, previous advancements have been incremental—such as in frame or lens designs—whereas this is a game-changer.

» Giving Back

EB: What are some of Level’s most popular functions?

PL: The “Find My Glasses” function and giving back through Eyes of Hope are new features that patients have not experienced with other health trackers.

How does it work? Wearers accrue points for reaching daily goals. For each 50 points, VSP Global’s Eyes of Hope donates an eye exam and pair of glasses to someone in need.

» Tomorrow’s Tech

EB: What role will high-tech products play going forward?

PL: Our patients will be moving more and more toward this kind of wearable technology, so it is imperative to be a part of it. I strongly believe that if you are not incorporating this type of technology, patients will eventually move to other doctors who do.”