Even though I can’t read the words on my monitor without a prescription, I’m admittedly not a glasses guy. Part of it is the aesthetic, but mostly it’s because after a few hours, they feel uncomfortable at the bridge of my nose and behind my ears.
So when I heard about Topology Eyewear, the San Francisco-based startup that uses augmented reality to custom make eyeglasses via smartphone app, I was intrigued (Also: the rest of the in-house SPY team wears chic glasses, and I was feeling peer pressure to conform).
“We don’t use 3D printing because it’s makes an expensive product that seems rather cheap,” says company spokesperson Chris Guest. “We use the same materials and processes as any designer, but our patented technology allows us to create bespoke frames while most designers must produce in bulk.”
I was skeptical that you could get a good fit without trying on the frames and having a technician take careful measurements. Instead, Topology works by first taking a video selfie. They apply the same “computer vision” technology that self-driving cars use to detect obstacles in the road.
Once you have your headshot, you can swipe through 10 unique styles made from either Italian acetate or stainless steel. There’s a variety of colors, and you can choose among eight tints if you’re in the market for prescription sunglasses.
The next part is where it gets really fun. Using slide adjustments, you customize the width, height and alignment of your new frames. What’s remarkable is that you can actually see the adjustments in real time as you slide the button.
Once you’ve custom designed your frames, flip to the info section at the bottom right of the home screen. That’s where you upload your prescription. It’s also where you’ll take your scale recording, which is the video they use to calibrate your measurements.
This is the part I goofed. You have to hold a credit card to your chin with the magnetic strip facing out while you move your camera from right to left, capturing the 180 degree image of your head. I used a dark blue card the first time, but because there wasn’t enough contrast, the Topology team asked me to retake the video. It didn’t affect the finished product, but it’s worthwhile to get it right the first time.
Once I submitted the design, it was time to wait. The first thing I got in the mail was a prototype of my new frames. The Topology team asked me to send in pictures of the prototype so that they could ensure a proper fit. I did that, then waited while they sculpted the frames, polished the lenses and put it all together.
Fortunately, I don’t need progressive lenses or bifocals, yet. It’s still worth noting that Topology can use your 3D model to take the measurements for multifocal lenses that would typically require an optician (position of wear, pupillary distance, wrap angle and pantoscopic tilt).
All of their lenses come with scratch-resistant, anti-reflective and hydrophobic coatings. They’ll add high-index material for free if it’s needed; blue light filtering and polarization are available on request.
In terms of price, you’re looking at $495 for custom frames and non-prescription tinted lenses on a basic pair of sunglasses. A single vision prescription raises the cost to $545, and adding progressive or transition lenses can bring it closer to $800.
After three weeks, my new glasses arrived. True to my expectations, they look and feel great. After a full day of wear, they still feel comfortable on my face, and I no longer suffer the fatigue or strain of contact lenses. Most importantly, I finally fit in with my coworkers–sort of.
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