Vuzix is an eyewear company, specializing in augmented reality specs.
Right now, authorizing and targeting air strikes is a process that’s sometimes bureaucratic, and sometimes dangerous as hell. Bureaucratic as in the Stanley McChrystal phase of the Afghanistan war, when it took a gaggle of lawyers, intelligence analysts, air controllers, and commanders at multiple layers to put steel on target.
DARPA wants to give one single soldier on the ground a direct data link to the drone (or manned plane) circling above.
Augmented reality speeds up the process and increases the accuracy and helps prevent friendly fire –
Rather than staring down at a bunch of maps and computer screens — and calling up intelligence analysts at headquarters for more info — it’d be better (and faster, and less prone to error) if he could get all of that data right on his augmented reality goggles. Oh, and if there was an integrated head-tracker, so the attached computer could basically see what the JTAC sees. “It is all about speeding up the CAS [close air support] mission and eliminating friendly fire issues that can occur if the user on the ground may not have the whole picture of what is around them,” Vuzix executive Stephen Glaser tells Danger Room. Heads up displays and helmets can currently weigh over 8 pounds.
Vuzix’s setup uses a more-or-less traditional microdisplay, then mates that up to a flat piece of glass called an optical waveguide. The light from the display travels down the glass and bounces around inside the glass parallel flats. Those beams are directed to holographic film, which bounces the image to the eye.
If the plan works, the system will be tiny — just 3 mm thick. And when the display is off, it’ll be totally see-through. Glaser notes: “This will ultimately allow us to design the display right into a pair of sunglasses, so no one will know you are even wearing a display.” Which could make the goggles good for civilians, as well as troops called into a robotic, lethal hail.
DARPA funding of Vuzix will go towards research and development of a next generation holographic optical display system for use by Joint Terminal Attack Controllers (JTAC). Vuzix has designed and recently started production deliveries of similar but current generation devices for the Battlefield Air Operations Kit (BAO). PCAS will fund the development of a high definition (HD) micro display and a see-through holographic optic. This technology is based on Vuzix’ patented Blade Optical system.