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DARPA is looking to use the contact lenses to aid soldiers with intelligence and surveillance

Imagine having the ability to see both the virtual world and the real world at the same time via a pair of contact lenses. A Washington-based company is looking to make this idea a reality, and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is onboard with the new technology in hopes of using it for soldiers.

Innovega, a Washington-based company specializing in eyewear-based platforms, has created contact lenses that allow human eyes to focus on images projected close to the eye and objects both in real and virtual worlds.

The contact lenses are coupled with a pair of eyeglasses, which resemble everyday glasses people actually wear instead of bulky technology seen in movies. The eyeglasses are proprietary focusing tools that produce an augmented reality effect while the contact lenses, which feature Innovega's iOptik media interface, offer megapixel clarity of the up-close images in the glasses. At the same time, the viewer is still able to see the real world around them.

"Applications [for the contact lenses] are quite varied, but they can be broken down. The easiest one to imagine is just watching a 3D movie," said Randall Sprague, CTO of Innovega. "So I've got one image in the left eye and a different image in the right eye, so it's very good for watching very large field-of-view, immersive 3D movies. It's much like having your own personal iMax.

"Another application that's kind of easy to extrapolate to is gaming, so I can now play video games, but instead of watching it on a screen, the video game could be all around me because the avatars and action can be at all 360 degrees.

"But what are more interesting applications possibly are applications that don't currently exist that have to do with mobile augmented reality. By being able to superimpose virtual image onto the real world, we can annotate the real world with our cell phone information as far as where is the nearest post office, or where is the nearest bank, or what's the price of bread in this store, or whatever information we want to superimpose onto reality, we can put that information there."

Entertainment isn't the only application in mind. DARPA is looking to use such contact lenses for soldiers as part of the Soldier Centric Imaging via Computational Cameras (SCENICC) program. The idea is to provide more intelligence and surveillance to the individual soldier while eliminating bulky systems that normally come with having such technology.

Sources: PopSci, InformationWeek

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By BZDTemp on 2/2/2012 4:29:17 PM , Rating: 2
Unless what is displayed on the lenses corresponds with you eye movement it gonna be a very strange visual sensation.

And regardless of eye tracking or not then what you see and what your inner-ear tells you about the world is gonna be two very different things which what causes motion sickness. Looking at a map while standing still may be okay but while moving not so much and watching a movie without any reference of the world matching you actual movement - not advisable.

By someguy123 on 2/2/2012 6:17:23 PM , Rating: 2
I'm not even sure how this would work visually. There's a certain distance you need to be away from an object before you're able to focus properly. how are they going to show information on lenses laid directly on your eyes?

By Trisped on 2/2/2012 7:17:46 PM , Rating: 2
Easy, the light is projected pre-focused to the desired distance.

By someguy123 on 2/2/2012 7:54:15 PM , Rating: 2
It's not a projection, it's on the lens. Has anyone managed to demonstrate focus laid on the eye? I'm pretty sure the reason headset huds aren't viable is because of focus issues.

By polishvendetta on 2/3/2012 9:27:33 AM , Rating: 3
I would think its more of a durability issue then anything. Fighter pilots and the appache helicopter pilots have had these kinds of things for a while.

I think its more of ability to make something durable and small enough to work in an infantry application while keeping sync with eye/head movements.

Apache gunners I believe, get special training in the use of the gun cam helmet where one eye sees completely different information from the other eye. I dont think its easy but obviously that would be more disorienting then seeing through a somewhat static display

By PaFromFL on 2/3/2012 8:45:40 AM , Rating: 2
Unless what is displayed on the lenses corresponds with you eye movement it gonna be a very strange visual sensation.

Perhaps the system comes with a vise to hold your head in a fixed position. It would be nice if they would integrate the scene generator with a six-degree-of-freedom motion sensor on the glasses, but it doesn't sound like they did.

Current 3D televisions are based on a fatally flawed design that is giving stereo vision a bad name. The correct approach is to give everyone their own display and adjust the stereo imagery based on the head position and rotation relative to the scene.

I still can't believe how much money was wasted developing 3D televisions.

"Intel is investing heavily (think gazillions of dollars and bazillions of engineering man hours) in resources to create an Intel host controllers spec in order to speed time to market of the USB 3.0 technology." -- Intel blogger Nick Knupffer

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