Polarized glasses have been around for decades, contrary to what many consumers believe. The first polarized glasses were sold in the 1930's, developed especially for pilots. The technology changed the market, and today polarized lenses are used by all kinds of people.
They're especially popular with outdoors enthusiasts and athletes. They are also growing increasingly trendy in motorcycle sunglasses.
The History of Polarized Glasses
Polarized glasses were first developed and invented for use in the military, specifically by pilots. Sunglasses themselves had only been on the market for a few years, but were well-received by consumers. Military pilots found them beneficial when flying in bright sunlight, with the exception of one problem: reflective glare.
When light from the sun travels through the atmosphere, it is dispersed evenly (polarized) when the light wave hits the retina. Reflected light, however, does not disperse (polarize) evenly.
Rather, it becomes horizontally polarized as it reaches the human eye. The result is a glare that is uncomfortable at best, and temporarily blinding at worst.
This temporary blindness can be fatal when piloting an aircraft. The Poloraid Corporation saw this problem as an opportunity to make money. They began working on polarization technology to solve the glare problem when flying.
The world's first polarized aviator shades were born in 1936 and distributed to military pilots. They became available for public sale the following year.
How Polarized Glasses Work
The lenses of polarized glasses of today are like ordinary lenses, with one extra component. A very thin film is placed inside each individual lens. This film is polarized so that when reflected light hits the lenses, it becomes dispersed more like regular light waves. This reduces glare from reflected light.
Naturally, this reduction in glare makes activities like flying an airplane or driving a car or motorcycle safer. It only takes a split second of temporary blindness to result in a fatal error or accident.
Polarized glasses revolutionized first the military and then the airline industry. Today it makes life easier and safer for all kinds of sports and outdoor lovers as well as drivers and cyclists.
What to Beware of When Wearing Polarized Motorcycle Sunglasses
As with any product, even a revolutionary one, polarized glasses have a few drawbacks. These must be considered carefully if you're thinking about purchasing motorcycle sunglasses with polarization film in the lenses.
When airplane instrument panels began to become digitized, pilots began noticing problems with their high-tech aviator shades. Their polarized glasses made it difficult to read their LCD displays. The same thing can happen to motorcycle drivers if they happen to have LCD displays on their bikes.
Another problem, though minor, is that of contrast between snow and shadows. Polarized glasses can sometimes make snow and shadows blend together. A motorcycle driver that mistakes snow on the road for a shadow could end up in a skid.
Of course, another potential problem is that a driver may tilt his head at too sharp an angle. This causes some horizontal light to enter the eyes over, under or through the sides of the frames and lenses. The result is bright spots that may pose a driving hazard.
Overall, it seems that the benefits of polarized motorcycle sunglasses outweigh the drawbacks. It may take cyclists some time to get used to wearing them.
It's suggested that motorcyclists start out by wearing them for short periods of time on short, low-speed trips. Bikers may also want to practice on back roads when they first start wearing polarized glasses. Doing so will give the rider time to adjust to some of these potential issues and compensate for them in regular, highway-speed driving.