Google Glass Gets Prescription Frames: Everything You Need to Know

Image: Google2016%2f06%2f30%2feb%2f201503270cheadshot 20.820a0.f61ddBy Pete Pachal2014-01-28 23:41:19 UTC

For early adopters of Google Glass, it's been a demand from the start: a version that is friendly to prescription lenses. Those people's prayers were answered early Tuesday when Google announced it would begin selling several "designer" pairs of glasses that are compatible with Glass, called the Titanium Collection.

Before yesterday, near- and farsighted Glass Explorers needed to either wear contact lenses while using Glass (as I do) or pinch the nose piece tightly so the Glass prism extends far enough away from your normal glasses. A few intrepid explorers have managed to jerry-rig the core Glass hardware onto a custom frame, but it's a risky endeavor.

Starting Tuesday, anyone with Glass can buy the new custom frames directly from Google. The company is also offering some new styles of removable twist-on shades for those that thought the original might have been a little too Terminator-esque.

Still, there's a little fine print. From insurance to benefits to design, here's what you need to know about the latest accessory for Google Glass.

Why is Google now offering prescription frames?

It was always part of the plan. Google has been rolling out Glass slowly since the first explorers got units in April 2013. Some thought Google might wait for the commercial release of Glass before offering prescription frames, but Google's Glass guides say they've been getting requests for them ever since the first units were released into the wild, and it appears the company fast-tracked their development.

When can I buy them?

If you're a Glass Explorer, you can head over to the Glass store now, pick your frame and proceed to checkout. You'll need Glass first, however, and it's not for sale to the public until later this year — and even then you might need to climb aboard a barge to get it. Google is still letting people sign up for the Explorer program, and you can do that through the site, but the device itself still costs $1,500.

How much are they?

The frames cost $225 each, plus tax. There are four to choose from: Thin, Curved, Bold and Split, and you can view them all on Google's promotional page. The Glass guides say the Thin frames are more suited for men, while women may favor the Bold or Curved look. Split frames "look good on everybody," one rep said.

Who designed them?

Google. Although there were rumors that the company was partnering with Warby Parker to make some hip frames for Glass, it decided to design them in-house. It's also offering the frames in the same colors as Glass: Charcoal (gray), Cotton (white), Shale (dark gray), Tangerine (red) and Sky (blue).

How do I get them? Do I need to send my existing Glass back?

No, hang on to your Glass — this isn't the same as the "upgrade" to the more current edition. All you need to do is order the frames through the Glass Store, and Google will ship them out to you right away. The frames come with placeholder lenses, and once you've put in your own, you can remove the Glass prism unit and battery, and attach them to the new frames.

Oh, so I need to buy lenses separately?

Yes. The idea is you buy the frames, then take them to an optician, who will craft the lenses.

How long does that take?

According to VSP, the eye-care provider Google is partnering with for its launch, the frames need to be shipped to VSP's lab in order to get the best fit, then they're shipped back. So probably a few days, at best.

Will my vision insurance cover this?

That depends on your plan. Most vision plans specify how much money you can put toward lenses and frames in a calendar year, and these would count against those quotas, if they even pay for it at all. If your provider is VSP, they'll be covered, and its network of trained providers will even reattach the Glass hardware for you.

So as long as it's VSP?

Right. If not, it's up to you to reattach the hardware yourself. It's not that hard — there's a single screw that attaches the Glass prism to the frame — so we're not talking extensive repairs.

What if I hate all the styles Google provides? Is there any way I can use my own frames with Glass?

There is, but they're all a compromise. A few explorers, such as the unlucky gentleman who was recently questioned by Homeland Security for wearing Glass in a movie theater, have modified their own prescription frames to work with Glass, but there's no set way to do it — and it usually means permanently altering your existing frames.

Some explorers simply adjust the nose piece of Glass so it rests over and above their existing frames, although that has two consequences: First, Glass juts even further out from your face, and second, you end up wearing two pairs of "glasses."

Finally, there are a few third parties who have built or have committed to building frames for Google Glass.

Can I switch to the left side?

No. Glass is currently designed to be worn on the right side, and the new frames don't change that.

And it still looks like I've got a weird plastic rod sticking out of my head?

Pretty much. Glass is still ostentatious, and the frames don't change that. They do add a new level of style and convenience, though, and Google certainly isn't done creating accessories for its head-mounted computer. Stay tuned.

BONUS: Google Glass: Don't Be A Glasshole

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