Why Oakley Is Getting Into the 3-D Game

Oakley is known for peddling luxury eyewear, apparel, and accessories. So why is the iconic brand getting into the 3-D glasses business--a market that up until now has been decidedly unsexy?

Think of the 3-D glasses you've seen passed out in movie theaters and advertised for use with 3-D TV's. The movie theater glasses are flimsy and disposable; the liquid crystal shutter glasses (aka "active shutter glasses") sold by electronics makers are clunky and need to be charged to work. Even worse, they are only compatible with specific devices--a pair of Sony active glasses will only work with Sony TVs, and so on. Oakley aims to change all of the above by offering attractive, high-quality, passive 3-D glasses that work in theaters, with 3-D video games, and with any passive 3-D TV set (regardless of brand).

When the company decided to get involved in the 3-D market two years ago, it chose passive glasses for one simple reason: flexibility. "In most cases, active glasses are slaves to [brands like] JVC, Sony, Pioneer," explains Oakley CEO Colin Baden. "They're specific to a set, and it doesn't get you into a theater. There's an open platform in passive glasses."

Of course, Oakley has tweaked its glasses to near optical perfection--the company claims that it has developed the first optically correct 3-D eyewear in the world, as well as the first 3-D lenses ever made with high-wrap curvature (that means a larger field of vision).

First up for Oakley's 3-D technology: special edition Tron-themed glasses, which will retail for $150 when they debut in November. Baden is confident that consumers will be impressed with the glasses. "We like it better than anything out there," he says. At the very least, Oakley's glasses look a lot less dorky than other products we've seen pop up in recent months.

Ariel Schwartz can be reached on Twitter or by email.

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