Starting with the launch of Google Glass in 2013, tech giants such as Google, Meta and Amazon have been exploring ways to make eyeglasses a vehicle for their consumer technologies. A prominent example is Ray-Ban Stories, which features a Ray-Ban frame with camera and audio capabilities and is the result of Meta’s collaboration with EssilorLuxottica.

Another example is Amazon Echo, a Bluetooth-enabled frame that delivers music, voicemail and other audio information to wearers. These products are evidence of the growing convergence between Big Tech and the optical industry.

Yet this convergence is not limited to eyeglasses or contact lenses. It’s occurring with assistive technology, a category that overlaps eyewear but also includes smartphones, voice assistants and computers that help people who are blind or have vision impairments take advantage of digital technology.

The tech-optical convergence was on full display recently at SightTech Global, which organizers described as “the first global, virtual conference dedicated to fostering discussion among technology pioneers on how rapid advances in AI and related technologies will fundamentally alter the landscape of assistive technology and accessibility.” Produced by California-based non-profit Vista Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired, this annual meeting brings together technology pioneers who are applying the latest technology advances to barrier-free navigation, human interaction, and low-friction access to information for people who are blind or visually impaired.

As Karae Lisle, executive director of the Vista Center and chair of Sight Tech Global told me, “We believe that influencing the parameters within a product that’s being built will be universally beneficial for both sighted and vision impaired people.” In other words, feedback from blind and vision impaired customers is helping tech companies design the next generation of smartphones and other digital devices.

Clearly, the tech-optical convergence is occurring on two parallel levels. If you want to understand how this scenario is playing out and how it could impact eyewear companies, pay attention to what’s going on at both levels.