Pentagon Orders Prototypes of Advanced Optic Contact Lenses

The US military is the first customer for an advanced optic contact lens designed to give soldiers a much better view of the battlefield while using heads up display (HUD) units. The two-part system is designed to replace the current HUD units which are bulky and are limited in effectiveness by the soldiers’ limited field of vision.

These advanced optic contact lenses, designed by Innovega, a Washington, DC technology company, are multifocal lenses, like the advanced IOLs ReZoom, ReStor, and Tecnis. But the IOLs work by bringing a plurality of images to the retina, only one of which will be focused and therefore seen by the user. The contact lenses, on the other hand, work by bringing a plurality of focused images to the retina, allowing the user to focus on multiple objects at different distances all at once. For this specific application, the lens allows a soldier to focus on the HUD as well as on the rest of the battlefield.

How It Works

These multifocal lenses are divided into two zones. The internal zone sends light from the HUD toward the middle of the pupil where it can be conveyed to the macula, the zone on the retina responsible for detailed vision. The outer filter focuses light from the surrounding environment to the pupil’s rim.

This dual-focus display allows people to focus on multiple things at once, something human beings are not normally able to do.

The Frontiers of Augmented Reality

In addition to the military application, executives at Innovega hope to begin marketing the lens to the public, potentially as soon as 2014. The lenses have a number of potential applications, such as allowing 3-D interfaces by allowing different images to be projected onto each lens. This could be used for movies, or for immersive gaming.

The lenses could also be a solution to distracted driving, allowing drivers to focus simultaneously on the road as well as their car’s instrument panels, allowing them to perform a wide variety of tasks without taking their eyes off the road.

The Innovega display system is also seen as a potential competitor to Google’s Project Glass, which would allow people to view personal HUDs while walking around city streets and automatically see information about businesses and other local services.

This could also be utilized by law enforcement and security if integrated with the new Ex-Eye system being implemented in Spain. The Ex-Eye system uses advanced facial recognition to scan up to 100,000 faces per second, flagging known criminals and suspected terrorists to stop them before they are able to execute their plans. This security technology will be implemented at the 2016 Olympic games in Brazil, and it may be able to be significantly more effective if combined with Innovega’s advanced contact lenses.

Cautious Optimism

Although Innovega is justifiably excited about their display units, we should be a little more skeptical. Previous experience with trying to impose multiple viewpoints has met with mixed success. LASIK monovision and multifocal lenses give good results for some people, but others experience disorientation, motion sickness, and a significant fraction of users are unable to adapt to their plural visual system.

To learn more about advanced lenses that may be able to help your vision today, please contact a local ophthalmologist today.