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  • Writer's pictureCassandra L. Wilkinson

HJK Inventor Spotlight

Raymond Hobbs, Ph.D. of Tulsa, Oklahoma is the inventor of Special-Purpose Sunglasses for Pilots. Mr. Hobbs began flying in August 1963 and in 1983 received his doctorate in Atmospheric Science. In 1985 and 1986, Mr. Hobbs was licensed for cloud seeding in Oklahoma and joined L-3 Aeromet in 1986 as a scientist and co-pilot. Mr. Hobbs has been a pilot of a Gulfstream-IIB for Aeromet for the past ten years. Over the last five years, Mr. Hobbs has developed his Special-Purpose Sunglasses to help mitigate the normal aging effects of vision in the jet cockpit environment and has recently submitted a grant proposal with the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology (“OCAST”), entitled “Multi-tinting Plano and Ophthalmic Lenses.”
On May 31, 2006, Mr. Hobbs filed a patent application entitled Specially Tinted Lenses for Sunglasses for use During Flying with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, and on February 12, 2008, Mr. Hobbs was granted Letters Patent covering his Special-Purpose Sunglasses for Pilots (U.S. Patent No. 7,328,998). The following is a description of his invention.
Pilots fly in a visual environment that can be unfavorable for viewing between the far, intermediate, and near fields of vision. The far field of vision is outside the cockpit; the intermediate is the instrument panel; and the near field is for viewing reading material. The visual challenge in this environment is due to the high contrast in lighting between outside and inside the cockpit, which also causes glare. To improve the viewing for pilots in jet cockpits, special-purpose sunglasses with tri-tinted lenses have been developed to reduce this contrast and mitigate glare. The lenses are tinted as follows: the area of the lens for distant viewing is darkly tinted; the area for intermediate viewing is untinted; and the area for near viewing is lightly to moderately tinted. Figure 1 to the left shows a sketch of these sunglasses.
High contrast results from high luminance outside the cockpit and low luminance from the instrument panel. This high contrast can make it difficult to see the instruments. Also, there can be noticeable contrast between reading material and the instrument panel because the reading material is usually brighter than the instrument panel. In addition to the problem of contrast, glare can further make viewing the instrument panel difficult. Glare occurs when pilots view the instrument panel while the high luminance from outside the cockpit enters their eyes. Viewing problems associated with contrast and glare usually increases as pilots age. These sunglasses with their unique tri-tinted lenses help pilots overcome these problems.
The two photographs above show the dramatic difference between what pilots see when a starkly contrasting lighting condition has been corrected by the special-purpose sunglasses to achieve a more balanced lighting condition. Figure 1A shows how the high contrast between outside and inside the cockpit makes it difficult for pilots to see the instruments clearly. Figure 1B illustrates how the special-purpose sunglasses improve the viewing by balancing this contrast.
Figure 2A above illustrates the problem of contrast between high and low luminance in the cockpit's visual environment. Figure 2B illustrates how the special-purpose lenses balance the luminance by attenuating the high luminance from outside the cockpit while not attenuating the low luminance from the instrument panel (glare is not illustrated in the photographs). When wearing special-purpose sunglasses, pilots are able to shift their eyes from outside the cockpit to the instrument panel to reading material while seeing details accurately and with comfort.
Conventional or uniformly tinted sunglasses do not achieve the more balanced viewing condition shown in Figure 2B because they reduce the luminance from both outside and inside the cockpit uniformly, thus making the instrument panel too dark to see easily. In other words, conventional sunglasses do not address the problem of contrast. Although Figure 2A above was taken through a clear lens, the result would have been the same if it had been taken through a uniformly tinted lens.
Gradient-tinted sunglasses, ones that are dark at the top and light at the bottom of the lens, also do not achieve the balanced viewing conditions as produced by these special-purpose sunglasses because they do not account for the sharp change in contrast between outside the cockpit and the instrument panel. In addition, gradient-tinted lenses permit too much light from outside the cockpit to enter pilots' eyes when viewing the instruments, causing glare. Finally, both uniformly dark sunglasses and gradient-tinted sunglasses can leave pilots viewing reading material through a non-optimum tint density.
The unique and patented design of these special-purpose sunglasses makes viewing for pilots easier. In addition, the ability to see more clearly in all fields of vision while experiencing little or no eyestrain will contribute to safety. Mr. Hobbs and his wife, Elin Dowdican, Ph.D., are cofounders of Sky Sight Vision, Inc. based in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Mr. Hobbs specifically acknowledges his wife for her support and technical writing in drafting the disclosure provided to HJK and the OCAST grant proposal. Mr. Hobbs also acknowledges HJK's contributions for both technical and legalistic writing for all interactions with the Patent Office. Mr. Hobbs considers the success of the '988 Patent a triumvirate of writers. Moreover, Mr. Hobbs equates being featured in HJK's Inventor Spotlight to being on the cover of Rolling Stone.
(Reprinted with permission from Raymond Hobbs, Ph.D.)
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