Fitz Frames Delivers 3D-Printed Glasses for Kids with Wizeline
- Wizeline worked with Fitz Frames, a Los Angeles-based company that 3D prints custom glasses for kids, to develop the application that provides customers with an enhanced eyeglass-fitting experience
- In less than a year, Fitz Frames has solved the challenge of outfitting young kids with glasses without a trip to the optometrist. It is the only provider offering facial measurement and custom style, and at an affordable price point.
- Fitz Frames is now available on the App Store and currently has over 5,000 customers on its waitlist.
Today, nearly 20 million children in the U.S. wear prescription glasses. Even more surprising is the rise in the number of preschool-aged children who need corrective glasses—1 in 20, according to Pediatrics. What has changed in the last few decades? Besides the proliferation of devices and potentially harmful screen time, there has simply been an increase in screenings for detecting early vision problems.
If you think finding the right pair of glasses is tough as an adult, these challenges are only amplified for kids. For Fitz Frames founder, Heidi Hertel, shopping for glasses for her kids was not fun. “I have three kids and two of them have worn glasses since they were really little. They were only two or three years old when they first needed glasses, and I started trying to find the right option for the pretty serious prescriptions they needed.” Finding frames with the right color, style, and fit was nearly impossible, especially in one store visit. Add in kids’ short attention spans and a busy parent schedule, Hertel quickly saw that families were settling for good enough.
And what happens after they settle on a pair of glasses? Kids often break these glasses, lose them, or quickly outgrow them. And finding an exact replacement? Brands often discontinue styles or produce limited sizes, forcing parents to start the painful process all over again.
Hertel joined the board for Vision to Learn in Los Angeles, a nonprofit that conducts mobile eye exams and provides access to families in need. She learned more about the challenges around kids’ glasses and started researching beyond what doctors and boutiques could offer. She quickly discovered that no one was addressing the problem. “Kids became attached to their glasses,” said Hertel. “It becomes part of their identity and how they see the world.”
Hertel met Fitz Frames’ future CEO Gabe Schlumberger at their children’s school. Schlumberger’s son, Lucas, also needed glasses at an early age and he was experiencing similar frustrations and challenges.
Hertel and Schlumberger teamed up to provide an alternative for parents and their kids. They asked themselves what if kids could create glasses in a fun and easy way with their parents? What if kids could customize glasses that made them feel like the best version of themselves? What if parents could use the latest technology to ensure glasses fit more comfortably and allowed their kids to see better? What if the perfect fit came out-of-the-box and delivered directly to your door? And what if they didn’t have to start the process over every time their kid needed a new pair? The team got to work and soon discovered they needed help executing their game-changing vision.
Implementing the right team and framework
Wizeline partners with startups to build scalable engineering teams that include a range of expertise areas and technical functions. Over the course of the project, Fitz Frames was able to ramp up on additional skills and talent as needed. In addition to sourcing the right technical chops, Wizeline established processes and working cadences that suited the growing startup’s needs and integrated the team into Fitz Frames’ culture and team dynamic.
To best achieve Fitz Frames’ product objectives, Wizeline brought engineering expertise in augmented reality (AR) and iOS development. Unlike conventional partners, Wizeline considers the product development process end-to-end, not just the engineering component in isolation. The initial Wizeline team included one dedicated project manager, four iOS developers, two data engineers, three backend engineers, a DevOps engineer, a QA engineer, and one savvy tech writer.
The team approached the project in five different phases.
“It is sort of crazy to think about building a startup that has as many technical aspects as we do, with this many integrations, without building it in-house,” said Schlumberger. “The fact of the matter is, we couldn’t have built what we want to do in-house without hiring 30 people. It takes a lot of nuances to implement well. The complexity of measurement, glasses resizing—all which had been unsolved by the industry so far. This was not off-the-shelf technology. It also needed to be integrated with manufacturing, be HIPPA compliant, the ability to send 3D model files and order information to a server, and connect to our lens supplier.”
When asked about the value that Wizeline brought to the project, the Fitz Frames team pointed to the breadth of experience and the talent available to tackle a problem of this scope. “Wizeline is big enough to provide that breadth of experience, but still small enough to help from inception to actual execution across the board,” said Schlumberger.
Katie Basset, VP of Product and Operations at Fitz Frames, noted that it was nice that Wizeline is large enough to cover a majority of Fitz Frames’ development needs, but without a lot of bureaucracy or protocol that usually accompanies large development firms. “The bench is broad enough that there was someone from Wizeline that could be brought in at every phase, from user interface designers to AI experts.”
A digital solution for custom glasses
The Fitz Frames app provides customers with an enhanced eyeglass-fitting experience using advanced facial mapping to take accurate measurements from easy to snap in-app photographs. The app allows customers to try on glasses virtually, with different frames to try from the comfort of their home, removing the hassle in-store shopping while also offering an improved fit.
The app experience was designed to encourage kids to take charge of their own experience, exploring a catalog of six frame shapes and eight colors to create unique customized glasses, and sunglasses, designed specifically for them. Customers also have access to the latest in eyewear technology, with options such as selecting blue-light blocking lenses.
Once frames are selected, the customized glasses are printed with 3D laser printers at the Fitz Frames factory in Youngstown, Ohio. Tailor-made to reflect the unique contours of each child’s face, Fitz Frames are also outfitted with snap-fit hinges—an upgraded design technique that eliminates the risk of loose screws and adds a layer of playability. A necessary and welcome solution to (all too frequent) broken glasses for kids. Customers have the ability to manage individual profiles for each kid, allowing them to track their orders, update prescriptions, and view previous styles and selections.
Bringing convenience, joy, and innovation to kids’ glasses
In addition to individual purchases, Fitz Frames also offers a subscription option, providing members with two sets of frames and lenses for $185 per year. In an effort to reduce stress and increase accessibility, Fitz Frames will cover the cost of replacement frames for subscribers who exceed the two pairs included in their membership so that they are only responsible for the cost of replacement lenses and shipping.
Fitz Frames has also partnered with two non-profit organizations to increase access to quality vision care and services to children throughout the country. Through their partnership with Vision to Learn, Fitz Frames is working to provide eye exams and glasses to kids in low-income communities. The team has also developed a pilot program with Loving Eyes, an organization that provides custom-fit eyeglasses for children with craniofacial anomalies who can’t wear conventional glasses.
Originally, the Fitz Frames team estimated that development would take 10 weeks but they quickly realized it would take closer to 22 weeks to solve the full scope of the problem they had set out to tackle. “The biggest KPI was a great product, and we’re 99% there,” said Hertel.
The team also counts its ability to go from idea to launch with zero in-house engineers as a significant win. For a non-engineering team, the value and rarity of working with a technology partner they could adopt as their own are not lost on Schlumberger and team: “You usually see one of two things: a couple of guys in a shop somewhere, they’re enthusiastic, but they can’t really scale. Or it’s a giant corporate entity and you only interact with your project manager and never talk to the engineers. It was really refreshing that everyone at Wizeline was incredibly solutions-oriented. It took some time to get up to speed, but everyone understood that we wanted to make glasses kids would love and want to keep. Everyone got that, from QA to frontend.”
20/20 and beyond
What’s next? Fitz Frames has a long to-do list post-launch, with a focus on scaling operations and partnerships, expanding beyond iOS, and ultimately, solving glasses for parents and kids. There is a Fitz for every face and the goal is to be in every household for prescription, sunglass, or blue light blocking needs.
The goal was to deliver the highest accuracy in measurement and fit, which required optimizing for devices with optimal camera technology. Fitz Frames is now available for download on iPhone 10 and above in the App Store. The team is prioritizing iOS devices with plans to release for Android later this year. Please visit FitzFrames.com for more information or to scope out a pair of custom glasses for your family.