Night Vision Contact Lenses?

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.

  • Zap

    i would use a torch

  • wejlfej

    you had me at “blink-powered”

  • zee

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

    • Joe Schmoe

      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

      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

        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


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

    • Liam Byrne

      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

    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

      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.

  • Thunder350

    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

    “…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

    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.

  • CJX

    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

    Chlorophyll eye drops maybe.

  • psypher

    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

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

  • psypher

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

  • domcburton

    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

    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

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

  • ElGoatphuquer

    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

    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

    tactical glasses are amazing at stopping stuff getting in your eyes

  • tortoise pants

    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.

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  • juvanie ayao

    is it not harmful

  • John Doe

    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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