U.S. troops may get heads-up display for combat data in a contact lens

Special lens lets mono-focusing eye see enemies in distance, HUD data up close

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The eyepiece in that case was a helmet-mounded opaque module troops would have to focus on while trying to keep an eye on approaching dangers with the other eye.

In live-combat tests in Afghanistan, most troops ditched the video, relying on squad leaders and field officers, who did use the monitors, to pass along the information they needed.

Innovega's combination of smart contact lenses and eyeglasses is designed to make displays easily wearable (once troops get the monstrous-looking contact lens onto their eyes.

The result may not be as elegant as the design prototype in most of the Google glasses pictures, but Google's might not be as elegant when it does what it's supposed to do, either.

Putting augmented reality into a contact lens might cause the kind of cognitive dissonance, disturbances of balance and problems with spatial awareness that are common side effects of anything that changes our perception of motion or depth may be a problem, and there's no proof troops will be able to see both images clearly.

"Two superimposed images tend to be degraded and lower in contrast," Gary Rubin, a professor at University College London's Institute of Ophthalmology told the BBC. "I question whether a multi-focal contact lens is the right solution."

Neither DARPA nor Innovega are claiming the super-eyeball will be helping U.S. troops on the battlefield any time soon. It may take a year or two to get the prototype up to DARPA's specs and start testing.

In the meantime, Innovega is already testing the iOptik lenses and glasses with the FDA. Willey said he expects the civilian version will be available by the end of 2014.

Read more of Kevin Fogarty's CoreIT blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Kevin on Twitter at @KevinFogarty. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

Photo Credit: 

Innovega

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