By Martin Burns
A new type of contact lens could potentially help to change the battlefield and army tactics by giving soldiers a new way to receive information.
In the 1992 film Universal Soldier, warriors were created that could utilise a special headset to assist them in the field of battle, and although this seemed far-fetched to some at the time, 20 years after it is edging closer to reality.
The contacts are currently being developed by the Defense Advanced Research Projects (DARPA) agency's researchers at Washington-based Innovega iOptiks, and are said to enhance normal vision by allowing a wearer to view virtual and augmented reality images without the need for bulky apparatus.
Rather than using oversized virtual reality helmets, digital images are projected onto tiny full-colour displays that are very close to the eye.
"These novel contact lenses allow users to focus simultaneously on objects that are close up and far away. This could improve ability to use tiny portable displays while sill interacting with the surrounding environment," the DARPA states.
The new contact lenses are being developed as part of the DARPA's Soldier Centric Imaging via Computational Cameras (SCENICC) programme, the objective of which is to eliminate the capability gap with individual soldier radios that exist at the individual soldier level.
According to the agency, the current gap in soldier-centric situational awareness is due to predominantly airborne, video-based, downward-looking, operational concept employed by nearly all ISR systems producing critical limitations to resolution, field-of-view (FOV), waveband coverage, persistence, and access to actionable information at the soldier scale.
"The program seeks to develop novel computational imaging capabilities and explore joint design of hardware and software that give warfighters access to systems that greatly enhance their awareness, security and survivability," the DARPA states.
It is not know how advanced the development stage currently is, but it is hoped that the new contact lenses will eventually be rolled out across the ranks when the technology has been tested and finalised.
by Adrian Galbreth