Smart Vision Labs’ List of 5 Best Smart Glasses

List of 5 Best Smart Glasses

The term smart glasses is an understatement. On a very basic level, they function as glasses. Yes, the kind that will help your astigmatism. No vision problems, you say? No worries. The lenses can be non-corrective or you might opt for sunglasses with UV protection.

Yet, these smart glasses are more than just vision-related. They are wearable tech which literally lets you “see” beyond the parameters of the here and now. On a not-so-basic level, they are computers that add information to what you are seeing. This is done through either an optical head-mounted display (OHMD) or embedded wireless glasses with an augmented reality (AR) overlay that can reflect projected digital images. By using cellular technology or Wi-Fi, smart glasses can run self-contained mobile apps. You could even communicate via natural language voice commands.

What Can They Do?

Just about anything.  They can improve vision if you have corrective lenses or protect your eyes from UV exposure to the sun. But that is like saying a car has four tires; you expect that, right?

Smart glasses can let you listen to music, track your activity, make calls, and hear turn-by-turn directions. No need to look at your phone to do these things. Gesture controls allow you to answer a call with a tap on the frames or swipe them to change songs.

While these applications are convenient and cool, there are other possibilities for smart glasses in various sectors. In the workplace, they can provide virtual assistance to employees. No need to memorize a manual of steps to take; these glasses can direct and guide with accuracy. The new employee doesn’t have to be monitored by a colleague, which saves both time and money. Inspections can be done remotely, and supervisors can oversee their staff.

In health care, smart glasses can give patients and doctors a way to communicate. They are an effective tool in telemedicine, allowing doctors to access a patient’s data easily and make an appropriate diagnosis.

Yet, smart glasses are virtually indistinguishable from traditional glasses. They can be just as compact and stylish as their non-tech counterparts. While most people wear glasses because they have to (as in have-to-see-better) smart glasses are worn because they offer so much more than just prescription lenses.

But which one is right for you?

Form, Function, and Dare We Say, Fun?

But specs aren’t the only thing that matters in tech, especially with these “spec-tacles.” Aesthetic has always had a place in tech. People want to use products that aren’t just top-of-the-line but that are attractive. The design of the product becomes even more important in wearable tech. People may compromise on an unattractive laptop but it’s much harder to justify “only specs matter” when the product is right on your face. Especially in recent years, as glasses have gone from necessary for vision correction to unique fashion statements.

As the Wall Street Journal points out, failing to account for this was a major misstep of some of the initial ventures into smart glasses. Many of the earlier models of smart glasses crammed the full spectrum of smartphone features into a pair of glasses. But, as technically impressive as this was, the general public was not enthused. Smart glasses were too “nerdy” and wearing a pair conveyed an interest in tech rather than a futuristic cool. Combined with the privacy concerns of essentially having a fully-functional smartphone hidden in a pair of glasses, the general public rejected the new innovations.

But smart glasses startups have responded to the public and the mistakes of their predecessors. Wearable tech has to package the functions in an aesthetically pleasing package. Newer companies have also recognized the appeal (and necessity) of limiting features. Yes, you can have a fully-functional video camera in a pair of glasses, but is it a good idea?

The Wall Street Journal’s continued coverage of smart glasses includes how they have gone from reaching a broad audience of the general public to more niche sectors. The product can target certain consumers more effectively by improving the features they need and not complicating the process with the ones they don’t.

Here are some notable smart glasses that haven’t abandoned the dream but have re-tooled their product and message to incorporate more fashionable glasses and select features.

Spectacles by Snap Inc.

Were you one of the people who thought glasses that could record video was an interesting feature? Many were at least intrigued by the idea, even if ultimately public privacy concerns overruled the technical capability. But previous product failures didn’t mean the idea needed to be abandoned entirely. Snap definitely didn’t think so.

Snap devised a way to leave the camera in the glasses while protecting others’ privacy in public. They might be the perfect company to take on this challenge. Even if you’re unfamiliar with their Spectacles, you most likely know (or use) the mobile app they are well-known for: Snapchat. Their approach certainly makes good use of both their smart glasses related acquisitions and their popular image messaging platform.

If the average user is seeking to use their smart glasses to take video, chances are they’re looking to share it with friends and followers on social media. Snap Spectacles tackle smart glasses with video recording with respect for security along with simple sharing and do so in a fun-looking pair of sunglasses.

The smart sunglasses show off a bold design and bright color options and while recording, small lights circle around the camera signaling it’s on. Instead of sneaking a camera into glasses, Snap Spectacles make it the focal point. Pressing a button on the frame starts recording a 10-second long Snap. Recorded as a circular video, the glasses sync wirelessly with your smartphone, allowing you to share your Snap.
List of 5 Best Smart Glasses - Snap Spectacles by Smart Vision Labs

Vuzix M300

But not everyone gave up on the amazing technology that allows all the capabilities of a smartphone to reside in a frame and lenses.

The Vuzix M300 builds on the success of their popular M100 glasses. These fully-featured smart glasses don’t forego features to alleviate security concerns. Instead, they changed their marketing strategy.

The first thing you notice about the M300 glasses are their mature, professional appearance. The dark color and simple frame could be found right in an eyeglass showroom, if not for the computer module and camera attached. They also added nose pads so they fit like a regular pair of prescription glasses as well.

Vuzix found their target audience in the business sector. Employees from remote help desk operators to doctors have found smart glasses to be useful in their line of work. Anyone who needs their hands free while they access a computer could benefit from smart glasses. This is especially vital for people whose fields are unpredictable or requires managing many aspects at once. Having fully-featured smart glasses keeps them from being tied to a mobile device or computer to read and relay information.

Vuzix M300 makes the List of 5 Best Smart Glasses by Smart Vision Labs

ODG R-7HL

ODG R-7HL made the list of Smart Vision Labs top 5 Smart Glasses
Source: augmented.reality.news

The technology and highly specific applications in which smart glasses excel is a perfect match for businesses who have technical tasks which need to be performed efficiently and safely. You might easily picture smart glasses right at home in a boardroom meeting but what about workers with more physical professions?

Like Vuzix, ODG also finds their ideal consumer is in an enterprise. Like other recent smart glasses, they know design is just as important as what features are included. Combining their enterprise consumer, the relation of design and function, along with the idea that more hands-on professions can benefit from smart glasses resulted in the R-7HL glasses.

The R-7HL glasses might not be as attractive as some of the other models mentioned so far, however, their design complements their function. The HL in their name stands for “hazardous location.” These smart glasses are meant for workers who don a hard hat and protective gear instead of a business suit. ODG mentions applications like oil production and mining to give an image of the type of environment these glasses were created for.

Although it’s not quite “fashion,” the design of the R-7HL glasses is important to their consumer. To create this model, ODG actually redesigned much of their R-7 glasses, responding to their consumer who asked for a rugged product. The R-7HL’s augmented reality allows people in dangerous jobs to still get important information while keeping their hands at their work where it matters way more than at a company meeting table.

Vue Glasses

Unlike the models intended for enterprise use, the Vue glasses seek to appeal to the general public again, using the successes and failures of their predecessors. Judging by their successful Kickstarter campaign, they may have achieved this.

The Vue glasses don’t even offer augmented reality. Instead, they work through bone conduction which allows the glasses to function as an activity tracker and to offer earbud-free music listening. The wearer uses a touchpad on the side of the frame to interact with the glasses, such as to change the song with a swipe. Just as easy as on a smartphone but without having to pull it out of your pocket (and untangle your earbuds).

So without AR and what seems like simple features, how did this product get funded? As seems to be the theme with successful and hyped smart glasses alike, they don’t look like a “nerdy” accessory. In fact, leaving out the AR and using bone conduction technology allows Vue to eliminate the computing device which typically rests on the side of the frame for more fully-featured smart glasses. The resulting product is indistinguishable from an ordinary pair of glasses. Except with those activity tracking and music listening experiences. See the appeal?

Liquid Lenses

We’ve seen the “smart” features, but how about a quick look at the “glasses” part? Like the Vue, these smart glasses also don’t have AR but that doesn’t disqualify them from using the name. The glasses listed so far have basically been head-mounted augmented reality devices (or at least offer supplementary features in the form of a pair of glasses). But researchers from the University of Utah have used the “smart” to improve the glasses.

These smart glasses have liquid lenses which allow them to change the focus, depending on the wearer’s needs. Regular prescription glasses can only correct one thing at a time. If you see well up close with your reading glasses on, your vision will be blurry when you look up from your book. These glasses would change for you instead of you changing your glasses.

The glasses connect with a smartphone app which contains the user’s prescription and changes the focus of the lens through Bluetooth. Inputting a new prescription results in the lens changing. This technology is very promising to people who switch between distance and reading glasses as well as bifocal users.

But even with these glasses that have the capability to improve people’s quality of life, design matters. As the average glasses-wearing consumer is the target market for these liquid lenses, their appearance is important. Even the leading researchers on this project acknowledge that the frames need engineering for aesthetic purposes before they will be suitable to offer to the public.

What are Liquid Lenses - Beyond Smart Glasses - Smart Vision Labs

Smart and Stylish

Glasses are no longer function over form. Engineers and designers, along with creative minds, need to collaborate to make glasses everyone can be excited for. No need to sacrifice looks. That’s what glasses are all about anyway.

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AR and VR for buying glasses - Smart Vision Labs

The Optician's Guide to AR and VR

Both augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) technologies offer promising ways to raise the bar of quality customer experience. Each of these has unique potential applications and limitations and it is up to creative companies to decide which kind of interaction to offer.

Understanding the differences in these technologies is essential to applying them effectively. AR brings a virtual item into the real world and VR inputs you into the virtual world. Each has pros and cons, yet both can be beneficial when the technology’s strength aligns with a company’s goals.

The benefit of AR is that nearly everyone has access to a smartphone – probably the most straightforward way to interact with this technology. The downside is that AR also requires some kind of proprietary app or device. This requires relying on the customer to bother seeking it out which has proven unlikely.

VR basically reverses the pros and cons of AR. A single VR headset can interact with many different applications, effectively creating a single portal. However, the customer has to first have that VR headset.

Although their benefits and limitations are virtually opposite one another, in reality, they are used for rather different purposes. Which one is better depends more on the company’s specific use rather than the technology itself.

They are alike in that both offer ways for more personalized, higher quality customer experience. Supplementing real-life experiences with virtual information blurs the line between shopping in a brick-and-mortar store or visiting their website. VR and AR also bridge the gap in shopping experience for a business that operates entirely online.

AR Technology

Augmented reality brings digital elements into the real world. It supplements reality with computer-generated graphics, sounds, data, or other elements. AR is primarily a real-life experience as the virtual item uses the technology as a portal to enter our world.

AR can be implemented in any device that has the required hardware, such as a smartphone, or in a stand-alone technology, like smart glasses. The versatility and accessibility of AR tech is perhaps its greatest benefit.

Smartphones and similar computing tech (such as tablets and video game consoles) are able to utilize AR through a camera and a positioning sensor, such as a GPS or accelerometer. This allows the device to register its position or scan a code to allow the digital data to overlay itself in the real world where the person can interact with it.

Smart glasses are another technology where AR might showcase its potential. Applications for augmented reality glasses aren’t limited at this point. There are companies creating glasses to interact with 3D models of items and others which seek to display biofeedback, such as heart rate, right from the lens. And although smart glasses do require an additional investment from the consumer, they are also far more practical for real-world use. Despite the many articles capitalizing on the sometimes silly appearance of smart glasses, even at this early stage, they are much smaller and even streamlined when compared with the options for virtual reality users.

AR and VR in optical stores - Smart Vision Labs (source: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/hololens)
Microsoft HoloLens (source: Microsoft)

VR Technology

AR brings the digital world to you but virtual reality puts you into a created digital space. Using a VR headset transports you into whatever virtual scenario you decided to enter.

VR uses a headset and software to project the illusion that you are somewhere other than your living room. Exactly how the different models operate vary but all use the same basic hardware and software interactions. You put on the hardware (the VR headset) which runs off of a technology platform such as PC, smartphone, or video game console. The image enters the headset through a HDMI cable (in the case of the PC or console platforms) or from connecting the smartphone directly to the headset. Interacting with the virtual world can be done through the device tracking your body movements, your voice, or buttons on a controller or the headset itself.

Virtual reality can create such a convincing illusion by the proximity of the screen to your eyes. When you think of VR headset, what comes to mind is likely an HMD, a head mounted display. Because the screen is attached to your head and the device tracks your position, moving about in the real world will alter the view you have in the virtual one. Look up in real life, you’ll be looking at the sky in the digital world.

AR and VR guide for optical stores - Smart Vision Labs
Video Games in Virtual Reality (source: FluidCastVR)

The Consumer Experience Buying Glasses

Previously, there was only one way to have that question answered: bring someone with you to the optical store. Now, with the technologies of virtual reality and augmented reality, consumers can get an honest answer without even trying on the glasses.

VR and AR provide a highly personalized buying experience. While retailers have long known the benefits of placing the product in the consumer’s hands, these applications take that one step farther. Trying on frames can become like a private screening with the consumer, the tech, and the frames. The walls that usually exist in any selling situation, namely, the brick and mortar store, the time factor, and the presence of employees and other people, dissolve with VR and AR.

The consumer has the power to see their purchase, not only up close and personal but within their own reality that is not contingent on anyone else’s. These applications have the potential to forever change the eyeglasses buying experience.

Not only does the consumer have the power to put their possible purchase in their own hands, they have the power to do this anywhere and anytime. Yes, they will know conclusively whether the glasses look good on them. But even more importantly, they will be able to easily view all options simply by scrolling through a menu.

In a very effective way, these applications put the consumer and the product together like never before. The entire idea behind VR and AR is to blur the physical lines of reality and invite people to enter a world that seems as real as the one they can touch.

This technology has put into practice the overriding principle of the entire buying experience. Consumers purchase what they like, what they want, and what they can afford. And where do they get the answers to these questions? In their minds.

VR and AR have not only accepted the idea that the mind is the arena for making decisions; these applications have made this real. In an amazingly profound way, consumers can get a clearer understanding of what they should buy when they step into the reality construct. The data to make a decision is still there, yet the consumer doesn’t have to go anywhere in real-time to get it.

By answering the question, “How do these glasses look on me?” VR and AR have opened up another dimension in which choices can be seen more clearly. The retail experience just got more real.

The Optician’s Advantage

Opticians are utilizing the applications of virtual reality and augmented reality in ways that expand from selling to setting up. Opening a store is a huge financial investment which encompasses a lot of overlapping details and decisions. Wouldn’t it be great to see the final result before making a commitment?

Grab a virtual reality headset and see for yourself. VR and AR are able to take future business owners for a tour of their store before the key even turns in the lock. These applications can literally set up the entire store, from everything to light fixtures to shelving, and then populate it with stock. This visual awareness allows for clearer concepts of the use of space, the flow of traffic, and the placing of strategic displays.

By having an almost-working model of the store, opticians can effectively plan and use the available space. With a flick through the menu, the store can be rearranged. Business owners have long recognized the power of atmosphere in the buying experience. The most successful stores have a balance of ease and excitement. The consumer needs to reach out and touch the product but also wants a strong motivation to make a purchase.

Personalized shopping is at the top of business owners’ lists since everyone wants to feel like their purchase is important. This isn’t just narcissism; it’s a fact of retail. Whenever there is an exchange of dollars for a product, the consumer wants reassurance that the deal was at least equal. But to make it even better, tilt the purchase in favor of the customer by offering something else like an added bonus. Another aspect of personalized shopping is a decrease in returns. Listening to the consumer and reacting to their objections in-store lowers the probability of their dissatisfaction at home.

Through the use of this technology, optical store owners can literally visualize the entire process from walking through the doors to getting the receipt from the cash register. VR and AR can let them plan the buying experience and try out options and ideas.

In some ways, this is almost reminiscent of those video games where a player can create a village or farm. All of the details can be worked out without the physical presence of time, money, or construction. Only after the owner is completely happy will the actual reality of the store be set up.

VR and AR take the guesswork out of starting an optical store by showing owners what things will really look like.

AR and VR for buying glasses - Smart Vision Labs
Source: Factor-Tech

Looking into the Future with AR and VR

Although these technologies appear to be from the future, they currently exist and are making an impact in the retail world. Both consumers and opticians are seeing the potential of these applications as well as the benefits. VR and AR glasses and headsets are waiting for creative minds to apply their unique way to interact with the virtual world to solve existing problems and start new trends.

By creating a highly personalized shopping experience everyone wins; the role of the consumer is elevated and the business models enjoy less financial risk. While some people may think AR and VR are like a game, there is some truth to that. A virtual or augmented shopping experience can be played out in a type of parallel universe, but the reality is always present. The strategies used and the principles put into action have an actual counterpoint in reality.

Consumers, innovators, and established businesses all stand to benefit from using forward-thinking technologies like AR and VR. The junction of tech and real life is blurring, whether the idea is creating new products, updating existing ones, or just making life more convenient. VR and AR allow companies and consumers to take creative risks.

AR and VR make reality even easier to deal with.

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How to Attract Millennials to Your Optical Store - Smart Vision Labs

How to Attract Millennials to Your Optical Store

Millennials and Optical Retail

Millennials and Optical Retail - Smart Vision Labs
Source: http://whymillennialsmatter.com/

Millennials are more than a buzzword heard on the news. They’re the largest generation since their parents’ and the very first to grow up with digital devices. This combination means products must reach this group and that the old ways of doing so are less effective.

The generally-agreed upon definition for a millennial is a person who was part of the 18 to 34 age demographic in 2015. However, the media has attached their own traits to this group. Self-centered, technology-obsessed, or entitled are common complaints about millennials.

Because of the sheer size of this group, the eyecare industry needs to reach them. However, these negative connotations have resulted in millennials distancing themselves from the term. Despite how true it may be, eyewear created for millennials cannot use that word in their advertising strategy because it seems disconnected and condescending. Several surveys concluded that only around one third of millennials identify with the term. What is the best method to appeal to this group then?

By reaching out and responding to their ideals in a positive way.

This group assigns high priority to expressing individuality. They are the most likely generation to investigate and factor in the ethics of a company. And never experiencing life without a computer nearby means eyecare marketing needs to adapt to the ways millennials communicate, network, and share information online.

To reach out to this group, a company needs to be aware of these issues. In the pre-Internet era, a company’s ethics were a non-factor, unless they did something notable enough to reach the traditional media outlets. Today, stories about any action a company takes, good or bad, can be shared around the world with a tap a smartphone screen. A millennial’s decision to support or boycott a product can be decided in a split second as they read through posts and shared stories on their social media account.

Their individualism also results in support of indie brands. They purchase a unique product as well as the satisfaction of supporting a business which might be operated by only a single person. A millennial’s questioning of the status quo means they are more likely to seek out and support one-of-a-kind, socially conscious and environmentally-friendly businesses or startups.

But what do they look for when shopping for eyewear?

What Do Millennials Want in Eyewear?

What Do Millennials Want in Eyewear? - Smart Vision Labs

Millennials want choice and change, which is exactly what the eyecare industry disruptors are bringing. Transparency in the eyecare business no longer refers to just the see-through quality of lenses; this is a movement to invite the consumer to have more power and a voice that is heard.

Millennials want to be included in the buying experience. The millennial market is expected to grow within the next five years and industry experts are positioning themselves to reach this consumer base effectively.

In eyewear, millennials want style, color and the ‘cool’ factor. While quality and price are also on their list, millennials view eyewear as a way to stand out and make an impression; cost is a consideration but not a deal-breaker. To this generation, eyewear is a necessary accessory. Whether the glasses are used to correct refractive errors or are worn to protect against UV rays, millennials want to stylishly combine form and function.

This generation is also visually-oriented. They view color, shapes, and designs as ways to express their individuality in whatever event they attend. When selecting eyewear, they like choices whether in-person or online. Choosing is a big part of the buying experience for them and eyecare professionals would do well to keep that in mind.

Millennials want change in the eye care industry as well. At the forefront is customer service. This is a generation that connects and communicates. In-person, they want a knowledgeable sales staff that listens and knows the latest trends. Online, they want to be able to open a chat or join a forum to express their views or ask a question. Social media is the voice of millennials and insightful marketers will speak this language.

An excellent example of a company that has embraced all of these concepts is DITA Eyewear. This company was established in Los Angeles in 1995 with one mission: to create unique, innovative, and finely crafted eyewear. This company has not only heard the voice of the millennial consumer, they are actively giving that voice expression through designing eyewear that connects and communicates with them on their own terms.

screen-shot-2017-03-29-at-2-58-50-pm
                    DITA Journey Sunglasses

Where Do Millennials Shop?

In line with their individualism, millennials don’t accept the status quo the eyecare industry has set. They question the “why” of the entire system, from how they get the prescription to the moment they put those new glasses on. The goals of eyecare industry disruptors tend to align with the ideals of millennials which has resulted in the creation and flourishing of the online eyewear market.

Disruptors seek to create transparency so the consumer can see how the industry was operating and how much more efficient it could be which aids the ethics research millennials do. Use of technology, from smartphone vision tests to 3D printed frames, shows this generation that the company is current and interested in achieving ideals rather than relying on old methods. Businesses who create frames from recycled material or ones who seek to improve the availability of glasses in developing countries allows millennials to support philanthropic causes and gives reason to spread the word about the company.

Indie companies are making huge changes in the eyewear industry. This would not have been possible before the technology, desire for change, and millennials to share their ideals and support their businesses.

Millennials and Eye Care

When it comes to vision exams, millennials want convenience. They have fully embraced technology and understand its usefulness. They are also confident in using digital devices and are among the first demographic to try out new technology. When vision care providers understand this mindset, they are better able to address the concerns of this group of consumers.

Convenience comes in the form of being able to schedule vision exams at times beneficial to them, or not having to schedule an appointment at all. The last idea may seem a bit radical since traditional exams require going through a gate-keeper to set up an appointment, and then sitting in a waiting room wondering why your time for the exam has been delayed.

Smart Vision Labs has a simple and very effective solution. They offer a 5-minute Smart Vision Exam that doesn’t even require an appointment. When a millennial shows up at one of the participating vision care providers, the exam can begin.

There is a paperwork part of the vision test, in which consumers are asked basic information and general questions about their overall health. Specific questions about any eye problems or concerns will also be asked. Wavefront technology scans the person’s eyes, photos of the eyes will be taken, and all of the data will be sent to a licensed ophthalmologist to review. If a prescription is needed, it will be sent via email to the person within 24 hours.

Convenient? Yes. Millennials also appreciate the use of technology to store their vision care results and make their prescriptions accessible. Smart Vision Labs offers consumers a password-protected portal in which to view and download their prescription. And that prescription, as well as the vision exam results, will be accessible whenever they log in.

Millennials know the power of technology to offer a convenient approach to eye care. This consumer group will shun traditional and outdated business models in favor of more tech-savvy ones. When they want a vision exam, they will look for convenience (on their terms) and digital devices to streamline the process.

The future of vision care providers needs to include the very real expectations of millennials. Convenience is possible because of technology, yet there is a certain boldness that requires those in the eyecare industry to put it to use. When dealing with eye care and vision exams, there shouldn’t be a ‘let’s-see-if-the-market-is-ready’ approach; providers who are truly committed to eye health will use every means possible to encourage people to get regular vision exams.

Marketing and Millennials

Marketing and Millennials - Smart Vision Labs

Millennials’ impact on the eyecare industry is only just beginning. Besides being poised as the next generation of consumers, millennials are unique in several ways. There is an increase in myopia in this age group which will create a direct correlation to their involvement with all things pertaining to eyecare. Research is being conducted to determine the cause of this growing trend, and there is a popular theory that not only offers an explanation but may help define this generation.

The ‘near work’ hypothesis suggests that this age group has strained their eyes through reading and using smartphones and other digital devices. Another correlation appears to be between the increased education level of millennials and myopia.

These apparent causes for the frequency of myopia also define this group. They are very interested and comfortable with technology and place a high value on education. Millennials bring these traits to the opticians and optical stores and will shop according to where their beliefs are best implemented.

When purchasing prescription glasses or sunglasses, millennials look for frames that will create the image they want to project. This is a generation that loves all things unique, indie retailers, customized frames, and colors. Their view of glasses is balanced by the idea that they are not just an accessory. Form and function play a key role in their choice of eyewear.

And millennials are the group that will research how their prescription glasses and frames are made. They love to be part of the process through educating themselves. They ask questions and expect answers. They especially like to share their opinions on social media or forums.

Millennials are more than just a group of consumers; they are people who love connecting and expressing themselves. This can translate into sales for the linear-thinking marketers but for those in the eyecare industry who want to make a real impression, this is something to listen to. Give the millennials a voice and invite them to be part of the changes that are happening in this industry. Think of them less of a consumer and more of a partner.

Millennials know what they want, where to get it, and why it’s the best for them. And they love to share these thoughts with others. Opticians and optical stores should never overlook the impact of this generation.

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Jobs in the Optical Industry - Smart Vision Labs

Post-Disruption Jobs in the Optical Industry

Post-Disruption Jobs in the Optical Industry

The effects of optical industry disruptors aren’t only seen in new startups and creative business models. They change not only how businesses operate but also how the employees work. The vision disruptors’ shared goals of affordable eye care and industry transparency need people to bring lofty ideas down to earth where they can be useful.

The changes disruptors made to the eyecare industry affect the day-to-day operations of businesses down to their smallest unit: the employee. Disruptors work with optical engineers to design a prototype, medical science liaisons to ensure the product is viable, and marketers to get the word out to potential consumers.

Not only do these positions have a new person to work with, the disruptor, they also have to adapt to the resulting changes. Eyecare industry disruptors rely heavily on technology, software, and communication to introduce new ways of doing things and the employees, scientists, and engineers that work alongside them must do the same. Engineers work with advanced 3D modeling software to design new equipment, staff opticians walk people through vision tests over teleconferencing, and licensed ophthalmologists read and report on results for a patient they never saw in person. Because disruptors have made technology and software important aspects of the eye care industry, the people who currently work in this field need to navigate these changes and incorporate them into their job description.

There are two ways optical industry professionals work along with disruptors. The first is the link between a disruptor and the technical aspects like healthcare, science, and engineering. Although it is behind-the-scenes work, it is essential to insure the disruptor’s idea is both practical and commercially viable. The other seeks to create communication between the disruptor and the consumer they are looking to reach. Telling consumers that they can afford eye care, where to get it, and why this new way of doing things is better for them are all part of fulfilling transparency goals.

Medical Science Liaison 

In order to create effective and practical solutions, disruptors’ ideas and goals need to align with the needs of the healthcare industry and the technological limits of engineering. A medical science liaison manages the healthcare part.

The primary focus of their job is to enable effective communication between industry innovators and their fellow scientists and doctors. They are the link between the people with the ideas and the people who carry them out. The medical science liaison uses the knowledge gained from getting their doctorate in a specific field (such as ophthalmology) to work with both idealistic goals and rigid industry conventions.

Their purpose is to provide balanced, informative insight on how to improve a product using the knowledge of their selected medical field. Because they are familiar with the healthcare aspect, they are able to explain the kind of effect the disruptor’s product will have.

A Medical Liaison is one of many important post disruptive jobs in the Optical Industry - Smart Vision Labs
Our former liaison Dr. Huy Tran

Optical Engineer/Optical Scientist

Optical engineers are responsible for every phase of creation, from the idea to the final implementation. Their skills need to cross several disciplines, as this position is a mix of both engineering and physics.

In the initial stage, the optical engineer needs to envision a device that will fulfill a need in the industry. This may include a new way to test for eye disorders or perhaps it involves improving an aspect of laser surgery. However, to complete each project successfully, there are several mandatory questions to answer.

What is practical? The optical engineer needs to mentally inventory the technology and materials that are currently available to create the new device. This assessment is the first step to determine the viability of the project.

How does it work? If the possibility for creation exists, then it needs to be designed. This takes the idea and brings it into the physical world through the use of measurements, materials, and the laws of physics. The optical engineer creates the framework that holds the device and the mechanical components that will make it work.

Does it work? Testing and analyzing the completed device may or may not be the final stage. Modifications or even a complete reevaluation of the project may be needed. In many cases, the optical engineer is involved in the assembly process which provides even greater control and input in the development of the device. A manufacturing engineer could also take over this aspect but there needs to be communication with the optical engineer at all stages.

The many hats an optical engineer wears during the creation-to-implementation process make this a very interesting position. Although this career is primarily a desk job, there will be many opportunities to work with others and to travel to testing facilities or laboratories. During the design or testing phase, longer work hours may be needed, yet there is a definite feeling of satisfaction achieved from creating devices that will improve the optical industry.

There is a great demand for optical engineers and the field is filled with growth, thanks to eyecare industry disruptors. As the current business model for eye care embraces ever-changing technological advances, the optical engineer will be at the forefront creating devices that lead the way into a better future.

Chief Optical Scientist Kaccie Li - One of many post disruptive jobs in the Optical Industry - Smart Vision Labs
Chief Optical Scientist Kaccie Li

Staff Opticians and Licensed Ophthalmologists

As technology is created and improved and the optical industry evolves, optical staff technicians keep up with these changes. The on-site technicians have always collected the patient’s basic information and conducted a traditional-style vision test. Staff opticians still do these things but in new ways that reflect the influence brought about by industry disruptors.

They might have started out giving a vision test using large machines in brick-and-mortar office buildings, but now they may help a person use a small device for their smartphone. The handshake when they enter the exam room might be replaced by a wave through a monitor before starting the live video feed. The vision test might not even take place in an exam room, but in the person’s home using a portable autorefractor or even their computer’s webcam.

Conducting vision tests using telecommunications affects more than just the technicians. The licensed ophthalmologists who interpret the results don’t have to be physically near the patient either. The method of operations for the eyecare industry was to have the person come into the doctor’s office for their vision test and prescription. But disruptors discovered it is simpler and more resource-efficient to send test results to the licensed ophthalmologist. This especially benefits people who need vision care but are unable to get to an office in person, such as those who have health problems or live in rural areas. In addition to allowing ophthalmologists to see and treat patients more efficiently, they can also provide care to people who would otherwise forgo vision correction altogether.

Customer Service, Public Relations and Social Media 

Disrupting the eyecare industry isn’t just about dealing with high-tech innovations. Because this field is really about providing healthcare, there is a human element to this business that cannot be ignored. Once the optical engineers design the product and the staff technicians assist with vision exams, there is still a customer who needs to purchase a product. That is the reason the individual and the disruptor are interacting in the first place.

The responsibilities of the customer service representative have evolved as well. Before disruptors began creating a foothold in the industry, the customer service role was pretty straightforward. Sit at a desk waiting for a customer to walk in, help them select a pair of glasses, go over the invoice and get their payment information, and send them home to wait for a phone call saying their eyewear is ready. But, for a company that operates entirely online, how is that useful?

It isn’t. Which is how disruptors changed the definition of customer service. In the post-disruption industry, customers need service of a different kind, namely, more educational and information-based to lead them through the new changes.

A vital component which separates these new, innovative companies with the optical industry giants they are disrupting is communication. This element connects companies and consumers in a more influential way than just saying “I bought their product.” Communication allows disruptors to alert eyecare consumers to the behind-the-scenes practices of the industry which serve only to benefit the large corporations, creating a transparency that wasn’t seen in this business before. The consumer can also interact with a company directly in a way that wasn’t even an option before.

The overwhelming popularity of social media combines with disruptors’ needs and desires to communicate with their consumers. The previously semi-related fields of PR manager and marketer have become closely intertwined. Social media managers and social marketers are born from this union.

Running a social media account brings brand awareness, cultivates consumer loyalty through accessibility and positive interactions, and provides an outlet for people to feel heard by the company. Small startups can connect with the public on a more personal level which creates rapport between business and customer.

These positions even incorporate elements of customer service. Assuring unsatisfied customers their complaints were heard and relaying that information back to the business shows consumers, both the one you’re interacting with and potential new ones, that this business is legitimately interested in helping and making changes based on feedback. Fresh startups don’t have a long business history or traditions to cling to which makes them responsive to consumer praise or criticism in a way traditional eyecare industry businesses can’t (or don’t care to) be.

TM is in charge of ensuring Smart Vison Labs customers are always happy - Just one of many jobs in the Optical Industry
TM is in charge of ensuring Smart Vison Labs customers are always happy

Necessary Job Skills

Eyecare industry disruptors bring much-needed change that results in increased convenience and decreased costs to consumers. Yet, the disruption of the former business model also changes the parameters of jobs in this field.

At the forefront is software. Industry disruptors have used the modern advances in technology to change the “default setting” on eye care by upgrading to more efficient and accurate ways of performing everything from vision exams to LASIK surgery. While these improvements are beneficial, those in the field must be ready to adapt to them.

In many ways, the software generated and used by the industry disruptors are at the core of change. Careers in this field now center on the ability to learn new systems. The disruptors also open the door for innovative thinkers who can develop software to address the current goals of this industry. The entire disruption process carries a message that change is here to stay. Careers in eye care will focus on this message through adoption, inventions, and implementation.

Another vital skill for the job seeker in the post-disruption eyecare industry is the ability to communicate. This requirement now extends beyond the simple act of talking to patients in an office setting. Careers in this industry now require people to be able to explain in understandable terms how the technology works for their benefit.

This means that patients need to be introduced to new concepts in a clear way. For instance, Smart Vision Lab’s 5-Minute Vision Exam offers convenience and cost savings. Yet, patients will not fully appreciate the benefit to themselves until it’s explained. Another example is buying eyewear online. Whenever consumers are offered a different way of doing things, there is always a learning process. That’s why communicators are a vital force in the eyecare industry disruption.

Just like the disruptors have a vision for change, so will those working in this industry. Certain skills will be magnified to better enable eye care to attain the goals that will best serve the people they seek to reach.

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Visit VU Frameworks in the TurnStyle underground market and get a Smart Vision Exam in 5 minutes

Shopping, Dining and Vision Exams at TurnStyle

Where can a busy NYer get chic new glasses, an updated prescription, and an artisanal meal in under an hour?

Try looking down.

Visit VU Frameworks in the TurnStyle underground market and get a Smart Vision Exam in 5 minutes

Pop Quiz: You want to get a new pair of stylish, sophisticated and environmentally responsible glasses to show off your new hairstyle when you go out this weekend, but you need to get your eyeglass prescription updated first, and you’ve got to do it all during your lunch hour and still find time to silence the grumbling in your belly.

Answer: Check out VU Frameworks in the ultra-chic TurnStyle underground market below Columbus Circle. Conveniently located in what is arguably one of the easiest locations to get to quickly from anywhere in New York City, VU Frameworks is surrounded by upscale shops selling hand-made stationery, ultra-chic messenger bags, and a variety of tasty delicacies ranging from artisanal donuts and savory French Crepes, to critically acclaimed grilled cheese sandwiches, Bolivian Saltenas, and Taiwanese dumplings.

Not only can you satisfy your hunger for food, but you can also satisfy your hunger for fashion – especially the fashion that sits on your face. VU Frameworks creates eyewear with an Urban Zen style. Even better, every faux wooden frame in their collection is designed to raise awareness of the strains consumerism puts on nature.

Vu Frameworks - Smart Vision Labs partnerAh, you say, but what about updating your prescription? You don’t have time to wait for an appointment with your eye doctor, and you don’t have the time to spend waiting in an office for a separate eye exam. Never fear, VU Frameworks Owner Nai Wang has got you covered there, too.

Nai is all about meeting the needs of her customers, some of the most demanding, most discriminating, high energy and time-challenged working professionals in the world. She recently began offering Smart Vision Labs’ 5-Minute Vision Exam, the revolutionary smartphone-based technology that can get you in and out of her store in less time than it takes you to finish your Espresso Affogato, and give you your new prescription in less than 24 hours thanks to cutting edge optical telemedicine.

Chic and convenient? Environmentally aware, technologically advanced, and fashion forward? Yes, to all of the above.

And you’ll find it all down below Columbus Circle, at VU Frameworks in the TurnStyle underground market.

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International Vision Care Disruptors

Vision Industry Disruptors! International Edition

International Vision Care Disruptors  

Buying glasses should not make you roll your eyes. It also shouldn’t make your eyes widen in disbelief at the price.

Enter the eyecare industry disruptors. These are people who have caught a vision of a better, simpler, and less expensive way to purchase eyewear. They are creating companies to promote their ideas; they are using social media to introduce these ideas; they are making a disruption in the industry that is scattering traditional ways of doing business.

And it’s all for the best of the consumer.

One of the trademarks of the eyecare industry disruptors is the breakdown of geography. By using current technology, consumers are not limited to a place for a vision exam or to purchase eyewear. Smartphones and the Internet open up possibilities that never existed before. Instead of going to an optical store to look at hundreds of frames, consumers can sit at a computer and view thousands of them. Add to that try-on technology in the comfort of home and the traditional business model doesn’t look so good anymore.

Most interesting about the eyecare industry disruptors is the fact that their vision extends worldwide. The viability of any change in a business model can be measured in the level of acceptance across a wide audience. Internationally, these disruptors are making inroads in areas that are diverse in culture, yet common in a desire to affect change in an industry that needs reform.

A look at some of these international industry disruptors will reveal a common thread of placing the purchasing power into the consumer’s hands. These companies offer new business models with some unique ideas. The end result is an industry that will be better able to address the real needs of consumers.

India’s Industry Disruptors

Industry disruptors are problem solvers. To succeed, they need a problem to fix.

The problem is numbers.  For the first time, India is dealing with an aging population as well as a large one. As the country grew, so did the life expectancy. In 2015, the World Health Organization reported India’s life expectancy to be 68 years of age. In the 1990s, it was only 58 years.

This affects all aspects of the eyecare industry from prescriptions, to medical treatment, to corrective eyewear. Change is needed to more efficiently reach the many people who need it.

Consumers deal with a few different vision problems. As people get older, there is a greater likelihood their eyesight will weaken. There has also been an increase in instances of myopia. These people need corrective lenses to maintain their quality of life.

Many unchecked vision problems can progress into vision loss which is indeed what happens here. India has the largest population of blind people in the world. The market even reflects this. The biggest sectors of the eyecare industry here all deal with conditions which relate to blindness: cataracts, retinal disease, and glaucoma.

India’s problem is a lack of doctors to provide preventative vision care. Due to government regulations and insufficient training programs, India has only about one-third of the eye doctors it needs to provide care to all the people. But if the doctors are busy treating patients with glaucoma and cataracts, they just don’t have the time or resources to see the patient who just needs glasses. That patient who didn’t get to see the doctor goes without vision correction until it severely impairs their sight and the cycle continues.

This is the place the disruptors enter the market. Eyecare industry disruptors around the world share one common goal: accessibility to the consumer. They want their product to reach the people and areas left untouched by the largest companies.

Winkk addresses the frustration many people feel when trying to purchase eyeglasses. Only after navigating the frame selection and confusing lens upgrades with the “help” of a pushy employee does the customer learn the price of the eyeglasses.

Winkk - International Vision Care Disruptors

They set out to offer frames that are both trendy and cost-effective. What is Winkk’s contribution to transparency in the eyecare industry? Their eyeglasses have a listed price which includes the prescription lenses. Offering frames that are both affordable and fashionable gives the consumer purchasing power and reduces the number of people going without vision correction due to a confusing sales experience.

Glassic was founded after learning the reason the eyewear market was so confusing and overpriced. Over 80 percent of the market was being controlled by a single supply chain, from manufacture to sale. The founders of Glassic are able to keep their prices reasonable by making their glasses in-house and cutting out the retailer by selling through their own website.

Glassic - International Vision Care Disruptors

A few creative solutions allowed them to overcome the concerns of not being able to see yourself in the frames first and the unclear lens options. A virtual try-on which uses the customer’s webcam creates an experience just like testing frames in-person. Glassic addresses the lens selection issue with a unique algorithm which suggests lenses after the customer selects their power, ensuring the product they buy is their best option. This algorithm also eliminates the navigation of lens types as well as the price variation between different opticians.

Lenskart expands on convenience of shopping for glasses. By offering a vision exam at home, the consumer is not only able to get a lens prescription, but this keeps an optician free to care for a patient with more immediate issues. Certain areas are eligible for a home visit to try on frames. An employee brings 100 frame options and helps the customer with their purchase.

These innovative companies prove the power of a creative idea to change the status quo, create solutions, and assure the consumer that they made a good investment.

Latin America Eyecare Industry

Three factors contributed to the eyecare industry disruption in Latin America: a growing population, a steady increase of people requiring vision correction, and runaway inflationary rate on eyewear. The first two factors seemed to point to a steady volume of consumers, but the rising retail cost of eyewear made them postpone or cancel purchases.

The traditional business model has merely assumed that a steady customer base equals steady sales. While this may be accurate to an extent, consumers have become more cost-savvy and will not purchase a product if they feel their best interests have not been realized.

Eyecare industry disruptors saw this and reacted by offering more cost-effective choices. In Latin America, this was done by two primary methods: acquisitions and partnerships.

For example, Luxottica, the eyewear superpower, increased their distribution by acquiring retailers. Having retail-ready locations for their manufactured products builds a strong competitive edge and gives consumers a network of locations to purchase eyewear.

Partnerships have a similar strategy but balance the power differently. Chilli Beans, the major retailer of sunglasses in Latin America, partnered with GoECart to run the e-commerce side of their business. This type of industry disruption embraces the technology that is available and makes product selection more accessible.

Chilli Beans - International Vision Care Disruptors

Yet, the eyecare industry disruptors in Latin America are not looking to just take over the competition, they are in the business with long-range and innovative goals. Lema21, the “Warby Parker” of Brazil, sells private label frames directly to consumers. They compete with designer brands, which are made in the same Chinese factories as their own products. The difference is a much lower price, averaging about $100.

Lema21 - International Vision Care Disruptors

But Lema21 didn’t stop with the monetary benefit; they added a virtual try-on tool and a home trial that ships four different frames to consumers. Now, people can shop conveniently, have choices, and save money. The industry disruptors listened to the consumers, made changes in the business model, and everyone walks away happy.

European Industry Disruptors

European consumers are welcoming the eyecare industry disruptors. In Germany, consumers are buying glasses online at an increasing rate, while industry experts predict an even bigger growth in this venue of sales.

Industry disruptors are responding to consumer concerns about buying eyewear online: the lack of an optician to provide advice when making a purchase. This can be remedied through a variety of means. Try-on technology and an easier return policy are ways to give consumers more confidence. Social media, blogs, and forums can connect customers to style experts both within and outside of the industry. All of these things contribute to a better buying experience.

Eyecare industry disruptors will concentrate on these issues since most consumers have stated that they are very satisfied with the lower costs of purchasing glasses online. Price is an overriding factor in consumer appeal and industry disruptors will continue to refine the entire process, stressing the personalization of each sale.

In France, Paul Morlet, the founder of Lunettes Pour Tous (Glasses for All), is making a bold claim: get a pair of glasses for 10 euros in 10 minutes. His democratic approach to making glasses both affordable and accessible is shaking up the core of the industry in this country. The basic idea is for consumers to buy glasses and leave with them the same day.

International Vision Care Disruptors

His business model is basic with lower prices, reduced markups, and large volume sales. His marketing strategy includes educating consumers about the high profits opticians enjoy as they sell glasses that are cheaply made in China. Truth-telling is a large part of the eyecare industry disruption strategy since no consumer wants to feel taken advantage of.

Throughout Europe, these same principles are steering the eyewear industry into new ways to do business. Cost, choice, and convenience are the keywords that consumers use, and industry disruptors are providing real solutions in these areas. While each country may have varying measures of progress in the disruption phase, industry experts see a steady increase of consumer confidence in purchasing eyewear online.

Technology and transparency in the eyecare industry is forever changing the view (and the resulting purchasing power) of consumers.

Japanese Eyecare Industry Disruptors

A trademark of industry disruptors is their lack of boundaries, either physical or creative. Japan-based Jins Eyewear perfectly captures this element of being a disruptor. Crossing borders and collaborating with tech, fashion, and business allow this company to make headlines.

Jins Eyewear - International Vision Care Disruptors

Although they were unknown in the US, they operated over 300 stores overseas Japan and China. So why open a flagship store in San Francisco, California? Because the trendy city is a great fit for their brand of eyewear that is fashionable and tech-savvy. Young, progressive cities are like a magnet for industry disruptors because they are full of the kind of adventurous consumers which startups need to succeed.

The technology allowing them to disrupt is Kanna, their in-house eyeglass manufacturing robot. Having a lens lab right in the store means not only are the materials sourced directly from the company, the manufacturing is too. Really embracing the concept of controlling the whole supply chain to keep costs down also results in the fast wait time between selecting and taking home a new pair of glasses. The Jins experience is going home with a pair of glasses for only $120 and 30 minutes of time. In San Francisco. The low cost enables their fashion-savvy consumer to have multiple pairs quickly and inexpensively.

The Jins flagship store has another unique collaboration: a fellow disruptor. 20/20 Now, who offer vision tests through video-conference, rents space in the back of the store. If you add an inexpensive refraction to your trip to Jins, you can still leave your visit with a new prescription and a new pair of glasses for under $200. Again, this is San Francisco.

The Worldview

The most important goal of industry disruptors is creating transparency. Regardless of the problems the eyeglass market faces, information is what leads to solutions. Overpriced eyeglasses and consumers who are kept in the dark about their true cost is a problem worldwide.

Eyecare industry disruptors are creating solutions. The fact that they are all working towards fixing the same problems shows the issues the market faces are due to the distribution model rather than their physical location.

The future of this industry rests in the vision of these disruptors.

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