VSP Global and USC Launching Major Wearables Study with Tech-Infused Frames

The First-of-its-Kind Prototype Integrates Health-Tracking Technology into the Temple of an Optical Frame.

Level™ Frames - Nikola, Minsky, Hedy

RANCHO CORDOVA, Calif., August 22, 2016 – In partnership with University of Southern California (USC) Center for Body Computing (CBC), VSP Global® is launching a major academic study and consumer pilot test with the latest version of the company’s tech-embedded eyewear, Level™.

VSP Global’s innovation lab, The Shop, debuted an early version of the prototype in 2015 as Project Genesis—the first wearable to seamlessly integrate health-tracking technology into the temple of an optical frame.

A partnership with USC CBC followed soon after to harness the CBC’s multidisciplinary experts in digital health technology and to collaborate with The Shop on engineering future versions of the frame and platform.

“Our partnership with VSP Global will accelerate research and discovery as to how to create digital health products and experiences that will elevate, enhance and expand the lives of users,” said USC CBC founder and executive director Dr. Leslie Saxon. “This study is the first of its kind and will provide a crucial roadmap for validating future products and platforms and for understanding overall consumer health engagement.”

The pilot study launches this month with USC employees and will be managed by USC CBC in partnership with USC Roski Eye Institute. Participants will receive a Level frame and accompanying smartphone app that will allow them to track their activity.

The app will also sync with the VSP Global’s Eyes of Hope® initiative. Participants will accrue points in the app for reaching daily step goals. Once a certain number of points are achieved, that user will automatically trigger the donation of a comprehensive eye exam and a pair of glasses to someone in need.

“As a community-based not-for-profit, we’re curious not only about the technology and how it can benefit the individual utilizing it, but also about the motivations that drive certain behavior,” said Jay Sales, co-lead of The Shop. “Connecting Level to our Eyes of Hope initiative was a perfect way to  explore how technology within a platform as common as eyewear could increase health and wellness as well as empathy and opportunity for someone in need.”

Though still in prototype mode, the technology embedded within the Level frames—including a gyroscope, accelerometer and magnetometer—will track a wearer’s steps, calories burned, and activity time. Users will even be able to locate misplaced frames through the app’s “Find My Glasses” feature.

The study will also provide useful feedback on how individuals interact with the device, which will inform future iterations and strategies for the prototype. Select eye care providers within the VSP network will also have an opportunity to test and provide feedback about the Level experience.

The frames were developed by The Shop’s team of industrial designers, engineers and color specialists. Each of the three unisex styles come in a number of modern colorways and are named after some of history’s greatest innovators, including Nikola Tesla, Marvin Minsky and Hedy Lamarr.

“The new Level frames forced us to reimagine the entire design and manufacturing process for eyewear,” said Leslie Muller, co-lead of The Shop. “Designers collaborated with firmware and biomedical engineers, who collaborated with traditional eyewear craftspeople to produce something that is both technologically advanced but still seamless and beautiful. As with any wearable, Level is as much about fashion and individual expression as it is about the brilliant technology inside.”

The Level frames were produced in collaboration with Marchon® Eyewear’s manufacturing facility in Puos d’Aplago, Italy.

As with earlier versions of the platform and a recent partnership announcement with Vizzario Inc., Level is an example of how VSP Global is exploring the concept of Contextual Health, or the idea of enriching and personalizing traditional medical records with context from daily living.

A real-world example might include harnessing raw biometric data from a wearable—such as activity time, calories burned, or heart rate—and layering that into a patient’s medical record. Over time, that patient, along with their medical team, could use that information to create actionable insights and a more holistic understanding of their overall health and wellness.

“We’ve found that a visit to the eye doctor is often a person’s entry point into the healthcare system,” said VSP Global Board Member Ryan Wineinger, OD. “In addition to identifying conditions like glaucoma, cataracts, and macular degeneration, comprehensive eye exams can also detect signs of other serious health conditions such as diabetes, high cholesterol and even multiple sclerosis. To explore how technology inside a frame can further strengthen the link between a patient and their eye doctor is a natural extension to the role the eyes play in overall health and wellness today.”

The Level pilot will run through December, with published results expected in early 2017.


About VSP Global
VSP Global® unites industry-leading businesses to bring the highest quality eye care and eyewear products and services to help people see across the globe. Operating in more than 100 countries on six continents, VSP Global businesses include not-for-profit VSP® Vision Care, the leading provider of vision care and coverage with more than 80 million members and a network of 37,000 eye doctors worldwide; Marchon® Eyewear, Inc., one of the largest global designer manufacturers and distributors of quality, high-fashion, and technologically advanced eyewear and sunwear; VSP Optics Group, industry leaders in new lens technologies, production processes, services and logistics; Eyefinity®, the largest EHR and premier practice management software company for the eye care industry; and VSP Omni-Channel Solutions, which creates connected experiences that delight consumers and strengthen their relationship with their eye care provider.

About The Shop
VSP Global® has been an innovative company for over 60 years. Today, that spirit has a home in The Shop, VSP Global’s innovation lab that focuses on developing technologies for the physical and digital aspects of eyewear and eye care. The Shop’s mission is to evolve design and technology towards discoveries that enhance lives by embracing disruption and supporting multiple innovation projects across VSP Global. As disruption continues to change the optical and healthcare industries, The Shop allows VSP Global businesses to stay ahead of the curve and provide forward-thinking solutions for the company’s 80 million members worldwide. The lab’s three locations work in tandem with one another and are located in New York City, Sacramento, CA and Columbus, OH.

About the USC Center for Body Computing (CBC)
The USC Center for Body Computing, founded by Leslie Saxon, M.D., a trained cardiologist and digital health guru, is recognized as an international thought leader think tank organization in the emerging world of digital health technology. Serving as the digital health incubator of the Keck Medicine of USC medical enterprise, the CBC works with digital and life sciences executives, sensor and mobile app inventors, strategists, designers, investors and visionaries from health care, entertainment and technology as well as other USC schools including the USC Institute for Creative Technologies (ICT), USC Marshall School of Business, USC School of Cinematic Arts and USC Viterbi School of Engineering, to develop the latest in mobile apps, wearable technology and any concept where technology can empower consumers in their own health. USC CBC projects have included:  working with the Institute for Communication Technology Management at the USC Marshall School of Business to study how mobile phones can be used in the prevention of illnesses and epidemics; studying the role of social media in health care; medical research (Dr. Saxon authored a ground-breaking study which followed more than 450,000 patients across the United States and found increased survival rates among remotely monitored patients with wireless-enabled devices); sports (the National Football League Charities has given a grant to the CBC to study the dynamic heart rate in NFL and USC football players); app development (the CBC works with various medical and non-medical companies, to develop wellness and other wireless health applications for disease prevention and wellness as well as for chronic diseases that require continuous management); and conferences and seminars. The CBC will host its 10th annual USC Global Body Computing Conference on September 23, 2016. Learn more at: uscbodycomputing.org 


Level™ Frames - Nikola, Minsky, Hedy

Level™ Frames - Nikola, Minsky, Hedy

Level™ and charging cable

Level™ and charging cable

Level™ packaging

Level™ packaging

The Shop Co-Directors, Leslie Muller and Jay Sales

The Shop Co-Directors, Leslie Muller and Jay Sales




Pat McNeil