DARPA will be taking possession of a new set of prototype contact lenses that could be available to the public as early as 2014. DARPA will be testing the lenses, which can be paired with a compact heads-up display to allow images to be projected onto the lenses of the glasses. DARPA hopes that contact lenses will help increase the situational awareness of soldiers on the battlefield.
The lenses are called iOptik and they were developed by company called Innovega. The company signed a contract to deliver the first full functional prototype earlier this week. The Department of Defense funded part of Innovega's original engineering work for the contact lenses. It's hard to imagine what it would be like to wear lenses with this with technology since they allow the human eye to be multifocal. Our eyes can't focus on something up close and something far away at the same time normally. However, when wearing these lenses the user can focus on things that are very close and far away at once because the lenses have two different filters.
The center of the lens sends light from the HUD towards the middle of the wearer's pupil. The outer lens sends light from the surrounding environment to the rim of the pupil. The company hopes the technology will eventually be licensed for use by the public for augmented reality. Some other uses include watching 3-D movies projected onto the wearer's own glasses with different images for each eye and possibly glasses such as those that Google showed off recently. Eye care professionals warn that some similar tech was used in the past to treat cataract patients after surgery and proved problematic. Depending on how the images change and move people wearing the lenses could get motion sickness according to some professionals.