Re: Hydroptics masks

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Posted by Steve Lawson on January 01, 2007 at 00:47:40:

In Reply to: Hydroptics masks posted by Eric S on December 31, 2006 at 09:28:08:

I fist saw the mask at Scuba 2003 and was impressed as I believed the mask was a major advancement in design, however, as I learned more about it, I discovered what I believe to significant flaws. I e-mailed my opinions to HydroOptix, and received the following reply from John Kranhouse, the president. Those wanting to learn more about the mask may find the following of interest:

(JK=John Kranhouse; SL=Me)

JK: Hello Steve,

JK: Below are responses to your comments. Clearly you're an experienced diver, as am I (started in 1970). We're keenly interested in getting user feedback, but respectfully suggest you form your opinion after using the mask -- and I'm offering to loan you a no-cost demo mask.

SL: Comments? I saw your masks at Scuba 2003 and I was quite impressed. Over the years to many inventors have invented and re-invented all kinds of trinkets and trash for diving, but your design is the first of its kind (at least to my knowledge).

JK: Indeed, we've carefully researched over 200 examples of "prior-art," and less than 5 old patents clearly understood that expanding vision in water requires considering water to be a refractive medium, vs. a simple wrap-around shape like ski goggles, which of course causes extreme distortions.

SL:Although I found the design and concept to be excellent, I found the application poor. There are three major design flaws in the mask.

SL:First, the volume is too high. I usually dive deep and a high volume mask requires constant filling of air.

JK:There are immutable laws of physics that must be considered. After we've invested hundreds of thousands of dollars, analyzing hundreds of configurations and building many prototypes -- all while working with the finest optical engineers in the USA (those who NASA hired to fix the once-fuzzy Hubble Space Telescope), I can speak from some authority that we've carefully considered low volume options and found them wanting for financial and liability reasons.

JK:On our website you can see pictures of our functioning proof-of-concept mask for 20/20 divers (4 lens elements, 1 water-element + sea water). Our Reverse-Binocular design has the lowest volume of any mask now made, since the angle of the rear lens element is tilted 25-degrees on each side of the nose (more conformal to one's face). However the optical package, even using exotic and costly titanium-based glass, is quite large and very expensive, beyond what's practical for recreational divers. You'll see our optical technology on full-face masks and helmets, made by other companies, hopefully in 2004. http://www.hydrooptix.com/ray_trace.htm> AND http://www.hydrooptix.com/allmax.htm>

JK: RE our first product, the simple twin-dome thin wall design, yes, this does have high volume. Our patents include an inner wall, very close to the eye, to reduce the actual volume of air one must clear on the inside of the mask. However this is putting a partial vacuum directly in front of one's eyes, which could cause eye injury in case of failure. Such a product would create liability issues when improperly used (e.g. below rated depth).

SL: Second, the plastic is too prone to scratching. I've owned my mask for about ten years, and upon completing a dive, I simply toss it into my gear can. I also believe that plastic is more prone to fogging.

JK: Commercial divers using full-face masks and helmets ALWAYS use polycarbonate lenses. http://divingsystems.com/products/sl27.html>

JK:Polycarbonate (PC) is 10 times stronger than glass, a very important Safety issue. RE scratches -- we use a proprietary hard-coating just like what's used on PC automotive headlamps. And if scratches do occur on the water-side of the mask, they're completely invisible underwater because the water fills in the PC. The refractive index of the PC is close enough to sea water that even deep gouges are hardly visible. When the lens is properly de-greased and anti-fog gel applied (included with mask), the fogging potential is no different than glass. That's because our PC lens is hard coated on the inside as well as the outside.

SL: Third, the mask has purge valves. Such unnecessary Mickey-Mouse valves are prone contamination with dirt and/or failure. If you can't easily clear your mask, you shouldn't be diving. It's clear that hydrooptix has marketed the mask for the new diver and until these faults are corrected, the mask likely to be shunned by experienced divers and not taken seriously by the industry.

JK: Yup -- in over 20 years of diving I never used purge valves... until necessity dictated them for this mask. That said, every breathing regulator used contains a purge valve (for your exhaust). What makes the difference between a functioning purge and a rightly-described Mickey-Mouse valve is the diameter. The vast majority of mask purge valves don't function because of their small diameter, whereas purge valves on regulators --- and snorkels --- are much larger. We use purge flappers from a top-rated snorkel, and they work great and have proven during thousands of dives not to clog with sand / grit. But WHY purge valves? Here's the answer: http://www.hydrooptix.com/faqs.htm#Anchor-45-49425>

JK: RE our market for the mask... among our beta testers are Scuba Instructors with decades of experience. They think we've built something great... it helps them keep an eye on students. Here's comments from other VERY experienced divers...

JK:If you're local, I invite you to come by our office, borrow a demo mask, and then form your opinion based on real-world testing. We've got a lot riding on revolutionizing underwater vision, and only good word of mouth will allow that to succeed. We're just asking for a fair consideration... and who better than getting evaluated by an opinionated, experienced diver like yourself. I remain very interested in your product-improvement comments...after a few test dives.

Best regards and happy diving,
Jon Kranhouse, President
HydroOptix LLC
5631 Mesmer Ave
Culver City, CA 90230
PHONE: 310-636-1700 Xt. 214
FAX: 310-390-8401
TOLL FREE: (877) WIDE EYE ---- (that's 877-943-3393)

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