DARPA, the research and development division of the American Pentagon, is working to give a thorough overhaul to the bulky night vision devices used mainly in the military and surveillance fields.
The ultimate goal is to make night goggles that look like any other pair of goggles and to do away with the rather bulky helmet that is now needed.
A press release DARPA points out that the current night vision equipment strains the neck excessively and allows a very limited field of vision. Even the best night binoculars used by the military are now obsolete.
With your eyes wide open
Replace the array of optical equipment of current night vision devices and "miniaturize" them to the size of an ordinary pair of glasses? In two words: night glasses? It will be quite complicated, but it is a goal within the reach of those who are chasing it.
Recent advances by DARPA scientists have made it possible to convert infrared light (the classic thermal vision that all Predator fans are familiar with) into the visible spectrum with a single eyeglass lens. The result? A much lighter and more comfortable device.
"Our fighters experience significant neck strain from current night vision goggles. The weight of the optics extends 10-12 centimeters in front of their helmets," he says in the press release. Rohith Chandrasekar, program manager in DARPA's office of defense sciences.
If you've never worn night goggles for hours, imagine wearing a baseball cap all day with a 1kg weight attached to the front. This gives you an idea of the type of stress.Rohith Chandrasekar, DARPA
According to Chandrasekar, eliminating all optical equipment inside current night vision goggles will make the glasses much more efficient and cheaper. New technologies will convert infrared into visible light in a single step. The very concept of night vision will change completely.
The help of software and artificial intelligence is already producing mind-blowing prototypes. It will certainly lighten the weight of night vision goggles by reducing physical optics and the steps to transform images.