DARPA Orders Prototype AR Contact Lenses
April 15, 2012

DARPA Orders Prototype AR Contact Lenses

Pentagon officials have reportedly ordered a special type of contact lenses that provide a wide field of vision while also allowing individuals to focus both on a specific image and on their environment at the same time, CNET and BBC News are reporting.

The contacts ordered by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) are prototypes of Innovega's iOptik lenses, and CNET Senior Writer Martin LaMonica said that they allow users to focus on images at both very close and far-off distances at the same time. Essentially, he said, individuals can look at images projected on the inside of the contact lens while also keeping an eye on objects that are right in front of them.

Innovega Chief Executive Steve Willey told the BBC's LJ Rich that the company had signed a contract to provide a working prototype to DARPA last week. The device, which Rich said has previously received funding from the US Defense Department, could be used for military simulations and training, by soldiers working in the field of covert operations, or even to display images from remote drones to soldiers, LaMonica added.

According to Rich, the iOptik lenses have a pair of filters, which allow both nearby and far-off light sources to be in focus. The central part of each lens sends light from a head's-up display (HUD) to the middle portion of the pupil, while the outer part sends light from the surrounding environment to the pupil's rim. Thus, she says, the eye receives both images in focus and at the exact same time.

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

"The Pentagon will reportedly use the technology to develop display screens akin to what Arnold Schwarzenegger´s character wore in the movie Terminator," said Mashable's Kate Freeman, who added that the company also has developed glasses which utilize the technology, and that commercial versions of the products are scheduled to be released sometime in 2014.