A U.S. military project aims to give soldiers an all-in-one device that combines the most useful features of visible, near infrared and infrared vision.
Many U.S. soldiers carry special weapon sights and vision goggles for seeing under bad weather conditions or in the darkness of night. The military's special projects department hopes to combine all those separate gadgets into a single "super-vision" system.
The PIXNET technology would combine visible, near infrared and infrared sensors into a single clip-on device that soldiers can attach to their weapon sight or helmet. The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency also envisions soldiers being able to share their heads-up display images with their entire squads or platoons through wireless networks.
"Existing sensor technologies are a good jumping-off point, but PIXNET will require innovations to combine reflective and thermal bands for maximum visibility during the day or night, and then package this technology for maximum portability," said Nibir Dhar, DARPA program manager for PIXNET.
The PIXNET vision will require a system that keeps size, weight, power and cost down to a minimum to ease the burden of soldiers, Dhar explained.
An Android-based smartphone is expected to serve as the "brains" of the vision device by combining all the sensor images and then sending them to other soldiers on the military network. Private development teams who have an idea for PIXNET may also create apps for the phone if necessary.
But even a device that combines the best of night vision and thermal sensors won't help much if it's too expensive for the U.S. military. DARPA is aiming for the helmet-mounted version to cost about $3,300 per unit with a manufacturing rate of 10,000 units per month.