Readers of this column know that I’m bullish on smart glasses. I’ve always believed that selling smart glasses represents a smart business move for eyecare professionals and optical retailers. That’s because they are better qualified to sell devices that interact with our eyes than any electronics retailer.
Yet I admit I’ve been overly optimistic about the ability of smart glass designers to create products that have both an appealing form factor and a practical feature set. So far, few products have delivered these qualities, although designers keep trying.
I’ve also misjudged ECPs, few of whom have embraced smart glasses, most likely for these same reasons. Admittedly, smart glasses are an exotic species of eyewear, and dispensing them effectively requires a dedicated effort.
But what about smart contact lenses? Could they be the first smart eyewear that catches on with our industry?
I’d say they have a good shot at it. That’s because contact lenses are inherently an optical product. Unlike eyeglasses, which can be purchased online without the benefit of a professional fitting, consumers can’t dispense contact lenses themselves. According to most state laws, contacts need to be fit and dispensed by a qualified optician, technician or optometrist. This crucial factor puts contact lens dispensing firmly within the control of eyecare professionals. (Prescription refills, of course, can be ordered directly by consumers.)
The smart contact lens category is just starting to emerge. To date, the only smart sensor-enabled contact lenses on the market is the Sensimed Triggerfish, which provides an automated recording of continuous ocular dimensional change over 24 hours and was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2016. Wearable technology company Mojo Vision recently announced that it is collaborating with contact lens maker Menicon to develop smart contact lens products. The move marks an important step forward for the California-based company, which for the past three years has been developing the Mojo Lens, a sensor-enabled contact lens that can give the wearer augmented reality viewing capability. Mojo Vision hasn’t specified a timetable for its commercial release. But wearable vision technology is developing rapidly on many fronts, so now is the time for ECPs to start thinking about how they might integrate smart contacts into their product mix.
• Andrew Karp
Group Editor, Lenses and Technology