Entries in Glasses (2)


Eyewear Designer Warby Parker Gives Sight to World's Poor

File photo. iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Warby Parker may be known for its designer eyewear, but co-founder Neil Blumenthal said the original motivation for the company came far from any fashion runways.

There are over 500 million people who could have their vision restored with a pair of glasses, so Blumenthal, along with his business school friend David Gilboa, set out to perfect pupils around the world.

"It didn't quite make sense to us that glasses cost as much as an iPhone," Blumenthal said. "And could we produce the same quality glasses for a fraction of the price?"

The duo, along with two other business school buddies, launched Warby Parker and ended up blowing the whistle on high mark-ups at other optical shops.

"An optical shop often is marking up glasses three to five times what they're paying for wholesale," Blumenthal said.

While most companies charge at least $300 a pair, Warby Parker charges $95 for new glasses. Blumenthal said they "bypass the middle man" to keep prices down.

"When we're looking at this industry, we found that it was controlled by a few, very large companies," he said. "And we could literally provide all that margin that was going to these big companies to normal people."

And they didn't stop there -- for every pair a customer buys, another pair goes to a person in need. When they took a trip to India, Blumenthal said they talked with two farmers who told how they had lost an entire crop because they couldn't see the insects eating their plants, yet they had the proper pesticides on their land. Their poor vision devastated their income for several months.

"It's just amazing what a simple pair of glasses can do," he said. "Just a pair of glasses alone can increase someone's income by 20 percent."

Blumenthal had spent time working for Vision Spring, a nonprofit organization that trains people in developing countries, where eyeglasses are a luxury, on how to perform eye exams and make lenses.

"I spent five years pioneering this model to train low-income women to start their own businesses actually selling glasses in their communities, even if it was for a few dollars," he said.

From India to Guatemala, these locally-trained entrepreneurs can be seen on mobile units, providing eye exams and glasses door to door.

Blumenthal and Galba realized something else -- that people want to look good too.

"Fashion differs from community to community and fashion is king," Blumenthal said. "You could be the poorest person on Earth, but you still care about how you look."

Warby Parker also designs frames according to local trends.

"In places like India and Bangladesh, people love gold-wired frames," Blumenthal said. "Probably couldn't sell those in SoHo."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Google to Sell 'Smart' Glasses by Year's End?

KIMIHIRO HOSHINO/AFP/Getty Images(LOS ANGELES) -- Glasses that function like a smartphone? Google plans to introduce what appear to be the specs of the future by year’s end, The New York Times reports.

According to unnamed sources, which the Times described as Google employees, the glasses will be Android-based and include a small screen inches from the wearer’s eye.  The glasses also will be sold to the public for $250 to $600.

“We are not going to comment on rumor or speculation,” a Google spokesman told ABC News via email.

The glasses will reportedly have a 3G or 4G connection, several sensors and a built-in camera to watch the world in real time and relay information about locations and friends nearby.

Seth Weintraub, a blogger for 9to5Google, reported on the glasses in December and February. Earlier this month, he reported that the display on the Google glasses would be on just one side and that the current navigation included head tilting in order to scroll and click.

Rob Enderle, the head tech analyst at his Enderle Group, said head-mounted displays like Google’s glasses had been in the market for years. He said, however, that earlier versions like a pair made by Sony nearly 10 years ago were $25,000, heavy and had a power supply five times that of today’s smartphone. In addition, many of them also put the computer screen directly in front of the wearer’s face, rendering one blind to the outside world.

“Google’s glasses are tied to something we call ‘augmented reality,’” Enderle told ABC News via email. “This takes virtual information and overlays it onto a real-world image.”

“This could allow you to see in the dark, pick out things like powerlines, for instance, if you were flying a helicopter low or see an approaching Starbucks long before you got clear line of site,” he said.

“I think this will be the most exciting technology product release this year,” Weintraub wrote.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio