Pentagon orders multifocal contact lens prototypes

13 April 2012 (Last Updated April 13th, 2012 03:45)

Innovega has been awarded a contract by the US Department of Defense (DoD) for the delivery of a fully functioning prototype of its virtual reality contact lenses, iOptiks, to help enhance a soldier's normal vision with tactical information in the battlefield.

Innovega has been awarded a contract by the US Department of Defense (DoD) for the delivery of a fully functioning prototype of its virtual reality contact lenses, iOptiks, to help enhance a soldier's normal vision with tactical information in the battlefield.

The lenses, to be delivered to the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), are designed to be paired with compact heads-up display (HUD) units that allow images to be projected onto their lenses.

Innovega chief executive Steve Willey was quoted by BBC News as saying that the new contract provides the company with an immediate opportunity to start prototyping and demonstrating elements of the new system.

The multifocal lenses feature two different filters which enable soldiers to focus on distant targets while overlaying their vision with tactical information. This will eliminate the need for use of bulky helmets and goggles to provide vital battlefield data.

"Normally, for example, with a camera you focus on something distant or something close - but you focus on a particular spot," said Willey.

"By wearing our contact lens you automatically have this multi-focus, or dual-focus, and you are doing something that humans don't usually do."

Developed as part of DARPA's Soldier Centric Imaging through Computational Cameras (SCENICC) programme, the lenses are designed to eliminate the current gap in situational awareness by directly providing soldiers with data from reconnaissance drones and battlefield sensors.

The initial engineering cost of the project had been funded by the Pentagon.

The company is also planning to release the lenses to the general public in 2014, to help users watch 3D movies on their glasses and as an augmented reality wear.