Here's a common scenario: You're looking for new frames at your optometrist or local sunglasses shop, and you realize you don't like anything in stock. You could look through their additional catalogs, but you're wary of ordering anything that's not in front of you.
You could also sign up for those try-at-home sites that send sample frames to you, like. But with all that back-and-forth, getting a new frame might take a while. And, you know, "seeing things" is sort of a priority.
To solve this problem, Jonathan Coon -- CEO of 1-800 Contacts and founder of Glasses.com -- and a team of developers created an iPad app that scans your face and renders a 3D image.
Called Glasses.com 3D Fit, the app will enable you to try on and compare different frames with a digital image of your face. It'll be available for free on iTunes in May, and will launch on Android and desktops soon after.
Users will need to hold the tablet in front of them, and then slowly rotate their face from side to side. When I tried it, I had someone else hold the iPad, and there was a voice command that played so I could listen to instructions.
Afterward, the iPad had to scan an image of me holding a QR code on my forehead for scaling purposes, but users will not have to go through this (rather awkward-looking) process. All in all, it took about a minute or two to finish rendering the final image.
Users can then try on thousands of sunglasses and frames through Glasses.com's online inventory. You can filter by brand, color, and style, and compare up to four frames at the same time. There's also the obligatory social-networking feature, where you can ask your friends to chime in on Facebook and Twitter about your next pair of glasses.
If you like a frame, you can order the glasses and return them within 30 days, regardless if it's a prescription pair.
While the idea of a virtual fitting isn't altogether novel (Ditto.com, for example, does the same thing), it's interesting to see another eyewear company move toward a more interactive online retail space.
For the most part, trying on glasses is still a physical, real-life endeavor. And while there's still a large gap between online shopping and eyewear, Glasses.com's app aims to make that gap narrower. And, with its large inventory and 1-800 Contacts branding behind it, it has the potential to be successful.