Oakley Prizm Technology – The Science Behind New Lenses


Oakley, the private Foothill Ranch based eyewear company, has created a ‘secret weapon’ when it comes to goggle technology. The newest addition to the arsenal of snowboard equipment is the Flight Deck Goggles.

These goggles are designed to solve one of the most pressing issues professional skiers and snowboarders face when flying down the mountain: decreased visibility.

Since snow is white, the contrast between the snow and-obviously-more snow around it is very low and can make it extremely difficult to see where you are going or, if you are about to run into a mogul at 50mph. With the PRIZM color technology and the improved maximum field of view design of the Flight Deck Goggles, this problem has been solved.

Traditional goggles have a narrow field of view, with the peripheral vision being mostly blocked by the foam around the edges. Inspired by fighter pilot helmets, the Flight Deck goggles expand that peripheral vision by wrapping the lens around most of your head, this allows light to come in at the user’s eyes from all directions. In addition to this expanded lens view, the lenses are made with Plutonite and use Oakley’s patented PRIZM color technology which has been ten years in the making.

Normally, that’s such a drastic change in light conditions that you have to blink and wait a brief second for your eyes to adjust to the bright light. But because the PRIZM lens is blocking the “bad light,” you don’t have that significant adjustment delay when going from a darker to a brighter environment. – Robert Throop

The PRIZM lenses filter out the low sensitivity colors (the ‘bad’ light) and boost the high sensitivity colors (the ‘good’ light). The lenses increase the contrast and make it much easier to see when whizzing down a mountain at top speeds. These lenses come in three different types for specific conditions, the PRIZM Black, PRIZM Jade, and PRIZM Rose.


Optimal for extremely bright conditions, say a sunny day without a cloud in the sky. This incredibly dark lens blocks out 95% of the light coming in. This means even in the brightest conditions, your eyes are comfortable and relaxed.



This lens is the standard mixed conditions lens. If a snow storm comes in while you are out on the mountain and then blows away to be a bright sunny day, you will be just fine with the PRIZM Jade lens.



Snowy or foggy conditions are best suited with the PRIZM Rose lens. This lens has the highest overall light transmission of the PRIZM offering, as well as the greatest amount of contrast. Different from typical lenses, it is much darker than most low light conditioned lenses. When the sun peeks in through those dark clouds you can still see where you are going.


Although the lenses exist to support one type of snowy day, the versatility of the PRIZM color technology means that if you start the day with the PRIZM Rose and then the sun comes out, you can still see just fine because the ‘good’ light is being boosted and the ‘bad’ light is being filtered out.

Additionally, the Plutonite lenses are not just a uniform thickness. The lenses are tapered so the thickness varies to correct your optics as you look through various locations in the lens. Plutonite is also incredibly strong, so if/when you take a fall or go whipping through the trees you can be sure the lenses won’t shatter or deform.

The lenses are also multilayered, they have a dual pane just like in energy efficient homes. The air gap exists to create a thermal barrier and keep the temperature more stable and helps reduce issues like fogging. The lens also has a sponge like quality that absorbs the moisture and pulls it out of the air and prevents micro drops from forming.


“This, for the snow environment, is one of the most revolutionary things that we’ve done in a long time.” – Robert Throop

The frame itself is made from urethane material, which is very flexible. This allows the frame to have certain sections that are more rigid to keep the lens stable and certain sections that are more flexible so they mold to the user’s head.


With the PRIZM color technology, Oakley is not just changing the way athletes ‘see’ snowboarding and skiing, they are also contributing to military and government institutions. The Flight Deck goggles are increasing the optics visibility of the user, and the shatterproof material is becoming vital to soldiers success in the field.

Allowing them to improve the contrast and visibility of their environments increases their ability to move around the snowy mountain, and reduces that chances of injury. With the PRIZM color technology, the multilayered plutonite lenses, and the urethane crafted frames, Oakley is pushing the boundaries of lens technology in snow sports.

BitNavi is a blog conceived by Karl Motey in the heart of Silicon Valley, dedicated to emerging technologies and strategic business issues challenging the industry.

Kaya Lindsay is a local Santa Cruz contributor who spends her time globetrotting, surfing the web, and writing for the BitNavi team.

Follow her on Twitter: @KayaSays


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