DARPA, the research and development division of the Pentagon, is working to give bulky night-vision goggles a major overhaul.
The ultimate goal is to make night-vision goggles that look like any other pair of glasses and do away with the giant headgear currently in use, according to a DARPA press release on Monday, citing neck strain and limited fields of view caused by existing gear.
Replacing night-vision goggles’ array of optical equipment will be tricky. But recent advances by DARPA scientists made it possible to convert infrared — thermal vision — light to the visible spectrum with a single eyeglass lens, resulting in a much more lightweight and comfortable piece of equipment.
“Our warfighters experience significant neck strain from current [night-vision goggles] caused by the weight of the optics extending 4-5 inches in front of their helmets,” Rohith Chandrasekar, program manager in DARPA’s Defense Sciences Office, said in the press release. “If you’ve never worn [night-vision goggles] for hours at a time imagine wearing a baseball cap all day with a two-pound weight attached to the front of the bill — that gives you a small sense of the stress experienced.”
“This will further simplify [night-vision goggle] systems by advancing from the multi-step conversion currently used to a single step up-conversion process,” Chandrasekar said in the release. “Some of these processes even conserve the momentum of photons, which, in theory, could enable night vision without the need for any optics.”
More on night-vision goggles: The Army’s New Night Vision Goggles Let Soldiers Look Around Corners