Monday April 16, 2012 19:59
Defense Department Orders Dual-Focus “Smart” Contact Lenses for Troops
The US Defense Department has, according to the BBC, ordered new contact lenses for use by troops in the field. The lenses are dual focus meaning they can be used alone for wide angle viewing of the battlefield or in conjunction with special eyeglasses that allow heads-up information to be seen clearly. Another British newspaper, the Daily Mail, says that contact lenses can be used by troops on the ground to see what overhead drones can see, allowing a much broader view of the entire battle arena.
British newspapers, unlike their American counterparts are not barred from publishing reports regarding findings by the US Defense Department and the BBC has for years been a primary source of information for American journalists looking to cover the US military. Neither the BBC nor the Daily Mail is revealing its source but both are described as reliable.
Regardless of source, the new contact lenses are worn directly on the eyeball just as are normal contact lenses. The difference is in their construction. Instead of correcting for defects in a soldiers vision, the lenses bend light so as to allow for a wide angle view of the territory in front of them the BBC says. It’s sort of like a less exaggerated fish eye lens. But it’s their other role that is drawing all the press. In addition to allowing soldiers to see what a drone sees, the contact lenses, in connection with clear eyeglasses allow for the display of real time information as it pertains to the environment around the soldier. In such a way, the contact lenses can be used as an augmented reality device, allowing soldiers to see names of landmarks over those actual landmarks for example.
The BBC says that the heads up display can also be used to communicate messages to soldiers doing away with sometimes confusing or hard to see hand signals. The biggest advantage of the contacts though, they say, is that they don’t get in the way of movement, which is of course crucial for soldiers on the ground.
The Daily Mail says the contacts and glasses were developed under a contract by DARPA with an unnamed contractor, though neither paper was able to say how many of the contact lenses or glasses have been ordered, but it appears that the number was high enough to mean that they were meant for actual troops, not for test scenarios which means they should be in the field very soon.