Effective night vision technology, cheap enough to be widely adopted, has long been a Holy Grail for many sectors of the economy. The military has always been at the forefront of demand, of course, but it would be a boon to many other areas too, such as:
- Security – police and security guards would be able to see better, homeowners could observe the surroundings of their residence, and those walking in dark areas would be able to see lurking individuals who might be dangerous.
- Travel – drivers would be better able to see what’s coming, and to identify obstacles (or moving objects like animals that might become obstacles).
- Disaster relief – emergency workers could toil in near-darkness and still be able to tell what they’re touching or moving.
A University of Florida engineering researcher has crafted a nickel-sized imaging device that uses organic light-emitting diode technology similar to that found in cell phone or laptop screens for night vision. But unlike night vision goggles, which are heavy and expensive, the device is paper-thin, light and inexpensive, making it a possible add-on to cell phone cameras, even eyeglasses, once it is enlarged.
. . .
Conventional night vision goggles or scopes weigh 1 to 2 pounds, with price tags ranging from hundreds to thousands of dollars. Sized for cell phones, So said, his imaging devices weigh just a couple of ounces and would be inexpensive to manufacture because factories could use the same equipment used today to make laptop screens or flat-screen televisions.
So said other applications could include night vision technology for car windshields, or even for standard glasses to use at night.
There’s more at the link.
I remember reading that back in 2010 and getting very excited about it. The thought of an entire car windscreen as a night vision device was amazing. One might be able to see deer crossing dozens, or scores, or even hundreds of yards away, giving one time to avoid an accident like the one I had last November.
Trouble is, after those initial reports, that 2010 development seems to have vanished into obscurity. I’ve never heard anything more about it. However, yesterday I came across this report from Australia, which sounds very similar.
Researchers from The Australian National University (ANU) have developed new technology that allows people to see clearly in the dark, revolutionising night-vision.
The first-of-its-kind thin film … is ultra-compact and one day could work on standard glasses.
. . .
“We’ve made a very thin film, consisting of nanometre-scale crystals, hundreds of times thinner than a human hair, that can be directly applied to glasses and acts as a filter, allowing you to see in the darkness of the night.”
The technology is extremely lightweight, cheap and easy to mass produce, making them accessible to everyday users.
Again, more at the link.
That does sound very useful . . . but it also sounds almost identical to what the University of Florida announced eleven years ago. Are they similar technologies? If so, will the Australian development be successfully commercialized, or disappear into obscurity as well? Why? Why not? I have lots of questions, but there don’t appear to be any publicly available answers.
Can any reader with greater knowledge of the field tell us why these inventions or developments have not been more widely adopted in the commercial world? There must be a reason or reasons, ranging from being too far in advance of current technology to be manufactured economically, to security reasons for not making night vision more widely available, to just plain incompetence – but we don’t know. Can anyone enlighten us, please?
While we’re at it, is there any affordable, effective night vision technology that can help most people keep an eye on their surroundings at night? The primary emphasis is on affordable. I know there are some cameras that claim to offer night vision, but many of them require that one shine an infrared light on the area being surveyed. That can be too easily detected by other night vision gear – it’s like a great big flashing light on one’s head saying, “Here I am!” A passive solution, such as light enhancement or thermal sensing (or a combination of the two) is far more secure, but I don’t know that it’s affordable. The same applies to night sights on weapons. Come on, knowledgeable readers, help us out with a comment!