Bubba Watson will see plenty of green on the Olympics golf course in Rio de Janeiro. But it won’t be the same green the rest of us see. Filtered through specially tinted Oakley shades, Watson’s version will have heightened contrasts that accentuate some colors and downplay others. It’s a modified view of the playing field that he and a handful of other Olympians hope will ultimately help them see another color this August: gold.
Whether it’s clarifying the subtle undulations on the fairway or highlighting white lines on race track, Oakley says its new Green Fade sunglasses aim to give athletes an edge by filtering light and creating what is essentially an artificial color spectrum optimized for the sport they play.
And before you scoff at the idea of performance-enhancing replica sunglasses, there’s actually some actual science (and logic) behind Oakley’s tinting technology. “If sunglasses filter certain colors, then the eye’s response curves will be responding to the transmitted colors and not sensitive to the blocked colors,” says Steven Jacques, an optics researcher at Oregon Health & Science University. “In other words, the wavelengths observed are now ‘more defined.’”
Defining specific wavelengths can have benefits for some athletes. Just ask Kerri Walsh, who will be wearing Oakley Replica Prizm field lens on the Copacabana sand in Rio. Walsh says the tinting technology enhances whites against blues and can help her track the volleyball against the sky. “Most competitions are in the middle of the day, and sun is a huge variable,” she says. “Seeing the ball as quick and clear as possible is a game changer.”
Filtering colors ultimately results in losing visual information, it can be a strategic sort of loss for athletes. “This could be an advantage if there were colors that were distracting,” says Jacques.
Lords of Light
Getting rid of or minimizing those distractions means fussing with the wavelengths in the visible portion of the electromagnetic spectrum. Some of those wavelengths are shorter, like violet and blue, and some are longer, like orange and red. By using specific dyes in the polycarbonate they make lenses out of, cheap Oakley engineers can alter transparency and opacity to specific wavelengths. To see the subtle nuances of a blue ocean, for instance, engineers might screen the greens.
Most Prizm lenses have three or four distinct peaks in their light transmission profile. Highlighting those peaks creates a gap on either side of a specific wavelength. According to Oakley outlet, this tuning helps athletes pick up on nuances otherwise missed with the naked eye. Instead of washed out, dull, or flat landscapes, certain details and objects pop—like a baseball, for example. The Oakley field lens is supposed to make the white of a baseball to stand out against both a blue sky and a green field (colors also helpful for track athletes in Rio, who’ll wear them to help see painted lines). “It is very easy to dull white, but not as easy to make white even brighter,” says Wayne Chumbley, Oakley’s vision performance lab manager. “The only way is by dulling the surrounding colors.”
Now the only question is whether cool replica sunglasses can make you run faster.