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The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in the US has announced a new program that seeks to develop lightweight and compact night-vision goggle (NVG) technology.

Night vision goggles allow images to be produced in levels of light approaching total darkness, improving the effectiveness of fighting operations at night. However, warfighters experience significant neck strain from current NVGs caused by the weight of the optics extending 4in-5in. in front of their helmets. “NVG wearers also have to swivel their heads frequently for peripheral vision since current optics only provide a 40-degree field of view compared to the 120-degree wide view we have with our eyes, which only makes use of NVG systems more painful,” said Rohith Chandrasekar, program manager in DARPA’s Defense Sciences Office.

The Enhanced Night Vision in eyeglass form (ENVision) program is aimed to design lightweight NVGs that will offer a wide field of view (FOV) across multiple infrared (IR) spectrum bands. The technology will enable replacing the existing night-vision technology that involves binocular-like optics mounted on a helmet with a single flat lens in a pair of regular eyeglasses.

Besides the weight and field-of-view constraint, current NVGs provide only a narrow segment of the IR portion of the spectrum (typically near-IR) that limits what types of threats the viewer can see at night. Efforts to expand FOV and IR bandwidth to date have involved increasing the number of optics, which increases weight.

The compact set will provide pilots and ground forces with night vision to operate in low light conditions, including fog, dust and other obscurants, as well as with thermal vision, according to airforce-technology.com.