Home » News » Bizarro » Night Vision Contact Lenses?

Night Vision Contact Lenses?

by John Reed on June 16, 2011

This morning DT’s sister site, Kit Up!, published this interesting ‘what if’ piece about some tech that could have been used in the raid to kill Osama bin Laden. Basically, Kit Up! asks what if the operators on the raid were using the rumored-to-exist night vision contact lenses. Now, we’ve seen the QUADEYE night vision devices for some time. The devices with four-optics tubes give aircrews and special operators better peripheral vision by adding an extra tube at each eye. The wearer is basically looking out of four green-hued toilet paper rolls instead of just two.

This is still considered pretty cutting edge tech. However, Christian over at KU wonders if the SEALs on the bin Laden raid had night vision tech that was even more advanced:

I heard a rumor that the Team guys who busted bin Laden might have been wearing “cat vision” contact lenses that literally give the wearer night vision for a limited time without having to wear the bulky, heavy NVGs.

Now, all I’m finding on this is a mention from Popular Science back in 2004.

“The blink powered night vision contact lenses allow a person to see clearly in low– light environments by enhancing ambient light up to 200 per cent. These lenses use plasma technologies to eliminate the cumbersome and expensive image-intensification tubes used in convention night-vision goggles. The advantages of using the contact lenses above night-vision goggles are 1) full peripheral vision, 2) more comfortable interface, 3) a more cost-effective system, and 4) less disorientation with use.”

While one site says this is a hoax, the entry is seven years old. Seems to me this kind of thing — especially in a time of war — might be doable over that amount of time. And since the Tier 1 guys get things like stealth helicopters that no one had ever seen before, why couldn’t they have night vision contacts?

That last sentence makes a pretty good point. Anyone ever seen these in action or know more about them? If real, I’m curious to know how long they last.

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{ 47 comments… read them below or add one }

Zap June 16, 2011 at 2:59 pm

i would use a torch


Alex June 16, 2011 at 4:06 pm

BANG!, We need a medic!


anon June 16, 2011 at 10:43 pm

"Light sighted, fire at will"


Zap June 17, 2011 at 5:39 pm

in a house ? right oh , make sure you ask Mr Terrorist for a short time out to take your night vision goggles off !,as you enter a well lit room from a dark corridor , before you start shooting at each other .
Its not as if arms companies sell billions in rails and flash-light accessories everyear .


wejlfej June 16, 2011 at 3:23 pm

you had me at "blink-powered"


zee June 16, 2011 at 3:50 pm

This is retarded…
NVDs allow up too 50,000X Light amplification.
NV lenses x2? thats nothing,


Joe Schmoe June 16, 2011 at 7:54 pm

I agree.

To me, it sounds more like a school project than an actual military system that can be fielded.

2X is a far cry from the 40,000X of Gen3 Goggles.


Jon June 16, 2011 at 8:00 pm

Notice thats "up to" 50kx, and its rarely ever that much considering those numbers were measured in a perfect environtment lab setting.. With torches and/or IR torches 2x will be just fine in a low light house.

One thing I always hated and rarely ever did was try to clear rooms with NODs dangling in front of my head. Scanning around outside is just fine, but inside of a building is a whole new animal…


anon June 16, 2011 at 10:42 pm

The other more serious issue might be that with such high amplification that your signal/noise ratio may go up unacceptably. Random point reflections from broken glass will get super bright and obscure your vision.

That said, the big issue is always range, and indirectly amplification plays into that. In the end, if a photon doesn't go from target to user's eyeball, then there's nothing to amplify.


zee June 18, 2011 at 7:46 pm


although modern 3rd generation NVDs are more then sufficient for the soldiers need, we need to improve the range and vision field …


Liam Byrne November 28, 2011 at 6:55 pm

2x is still very useful as when your eyes adjust to the dark you can see a fair amount anyway but if you double that vision with out having bulky equiptment that gives a fair amount of reflection and a little light which is a massive advantage exspecially if the opposition only have normal optical ability


anon June 16, 2011 at 5:41 pm

I for one wouldn't want to put plasma anywhere near my eyes – it's either very hot, or very highly charged (either way, sounds like a recipe for fried eyeballs)


Cheesed June 16, 2011 at 6:15 pm

I wouldn't want to put a light amplifier, plasma or not, right on my cornea. And any indication what this "blink powered" part means? Is "fake" a word that is still used? Because it sounds like that.


joe June 17, 2011 at 4:12 am

Depends on the mechanism involved. However, movement-charged personal electronics exist even on the civilian market – the most famous one is the Seiko Kinetic watch series (I think that one is using peizo electrics).

Dunno. Should be technically possible, whether or not it's practical is a different matter.


Blight June 17, 2011 at 9:35 am

Thought kinetic watches used a rotating object to wind up a clock spring…or at least, mine does. (I dont own a Seiko, mileage may vary)


Thunder350 June 16, 2011 at 5:45 pm

While I'm a huge supporter of modernization, I hope our 13 trillion deficit, is just hiding all our cool gear to fight people on the back of camels with WW1 era weapons, and the IQ of a 1st grader (if that). Or to fight 1960' North Korea, or 1970/80's Iran.

I'd hate to think we spent all that much for nothing. But last time people hoped for something we made our current mess even worst then it was before.


Matt June 16, 2011 at 7:11 pm

"…guys who busted bin Laden…" This site needs to do an inquiry into Bin Laden. I think the truth about him is more important than the gear used to "bust" him.


Brian Black June 16, 2011 at 7:36 pm

Apparently, and it could just be a rumor. But apparently, 3d goggles have been developed, and these could have been used in the Bin Laden raid to enable the special forces guys to see everything in three dimensions.

Sounds a bit far fetched to me though.


Cheesed June 16, 2011 at 7:51 pm

You mean more 3D than what a person gets with stereoscopic vision?


Cheesed June 16, 2011 at 9:16 pm

Aww crap. I think we crossed our sarcasm streams.


Riceball June 17, 2011 at 10:19 am

Could be 3D in that it give the user proper depth perception because as I understand it, you get horrible depth perception with NVGs.


Brian Black June 20, 2011 at 4:47 am

Apparently, and it could just be a rumor. But apparently, hand held, battery powered 'ray-gun' like devices, which can fire a persistent beam of photons at a target at phenomenal speeds have been developed, and these could have been used in the Bin Laden raid to enable the special forces guys to see everything in the dark.

Sounds a bit far fetched to me though.


CJX June 17, 2011 at 2:12 pm

Doing this in a contact lens would be…. improbable.

It's not merely a question of amplifying the light. The light at the contact lens is COMPLETELY unfocused. Light from every point of the image enters through EVERY point of the contact lens. So you need to amplify each photon but only pass the amplified signal in exactly the same straight line the original photon was traveling at. In other words, the contact would need to function as an infinite number of lasers at every point of the contact.



LMA June 18, 2011 at 3:23 am

Chlorophyll eye drops maybe.


psypher June 18, 2011 at 7:34 am

I realize that this is a defense TECH site, but why is it that whenever some sh!t goes down (even tactically insignificant events like snuffing OBL) people assume the use of ultra top secret gadgetry? Yeah there was a previously unknown to the public variant of a helo, but damn…couldn't it have just been a brilliantly executed operation with "low tech" optics like an/pvs7's? Night vision contact lenses?! Seriously???


James June 18, 2011 at 6:19 pm

It is quite possible and even probable to be true. The basic tech has been developed,. If cost was not an issue….


psypher June 19, 2011 at 12:21 pm

Nonsense. Even from an industry point of view, the ROI is totally crappy…


domcburton June 21, 2011 at 9:41 am

This still seems like it'd suffer one major drawback over the disclosed systems. You can't remove them in a hurry when someone finds a light switch.


blight June 21, 2011 at 11:01 am

Here's another more interesting one, from a filed patent:

Of course, this involves quantum dots in the eyes, but at least corneas can do some filtering if someone turns on a light.


blight June 21, 2011 at 11:03 am

Sorry, the /iris/. Blah, why did I think cornea.


ElGoatphuquer June 30, 2011 at 3:29 pm

I think a more effective solution would to put a pair of underpants on your head, a couple of pencils up your nostrils and repeatedly say "Wibble."


Christopher July 15, 2011 at 9:39 pm

This is totally possible, using no electronics in the lens. the lens would have to be a reverse wide angle Fresnel lens to focus more light into the retina. It must also have a reflective outer surface to reflect strobe and flash light (since direct light is the main reason we can't see in the dark). SCIENTISTS -cut open a cats eyes and replicate it synthetically,.


Liam Byrne November 28, 2011 at 6:57 pm

tactical glasses are amazing at stopping stuff getting in your eyes


tortoise pants November 30, 2011 at 12:21 am

What about doing night vision the way other mammals do? Increase the reflectivity in the back lining of the eye, then the light can bounce around inside of the eye structure increasing the exposure to the rods in the eye. What if the famed "contacts" were there to provide filtering and protection from outside light sources. Remember the effect of shining a light on your dogs eyes while they are out in the backyard and seeing them shining back? Consider the possibility that the soldiers themselves were ever so slightly modified.


reseller hosting January 16, 2012 at 12:35 pm
juvanie ayao July 9, 2012 at 6:56 am

is it not harmful


John Doe October 6, 2012 at 9:11 pm

Just wanted to say that I have used these. I can’t say who I worked for or why I used them. There is a reason why you can’t find recent web information on this concept. You will possibly see them soon, if you consider soon 2021. I can tell you that certain things are done to the eye to make this work. These are things that most people will not want to do to themselves. Trust me it is very expensive tech and to install in the eye. Who would spend money on such a surgery just for night vision? Your first guess Is most likely the correct guess. Again, that is all I will tell you. You can choose to believe it or not. It is not a comfortable technology at this time.


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psypher June 20, 2011 at 3:49 pm

…I wonder how many militaries could afford Brand USA defense tech (even at cost) without FDI/FMS perks and offsets? My guess is only a handful of countries in Western Europe :-/


blight June 20, 2011 at 4:22 pm

With petrodollars you can play GI Joe in your own country with your own army. Dress your troops in Cadilliac Gage V-150s, M-16s or M-4s, maybe even the M-1's (export grade) with the right dollar. Or buy the F-18, F-15, F-16s, all in export grade. American technicians not included.


Angelus November 25, 2012 at 3:58 am

And on a personal note, as someone who has pretty much lived there entire life at night… I would totally be down for some augmentation surgery of the eye to permanently enhance my night vision! :)


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