Natick Looks Into Future Eye Protection For The Warfighter


We're back to talking about eye protection, which is the most important thing that need to be protected in an airsoft game. We always recommend to each and every airsoft player to not scrimp on the budget when buying protective eyewear for airsoft.  And we know the results if players use cheap and uncertified eyewear.

Eyewear protection has become advanced and nowadays affordable. They offer ballistic protection and even anti-fog features. Those used in the field by soldiers meet the stringiest Military standards required for these goggles and ballistic glasses to be used for soldiers.

Now, researchers at U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center want to push the boundaries of eyewear. While nowadays, the main topic in terms of eyewear are about the high-tech glasses that can be used by soldiers to get information right in front of them with all these products such as Google Glass or even the Oculus VR which DARPA is interested in. For the Natick researchers, it is more about improved protection from ballistic, environmental and electronic threats the soldier's eyes.

One of the areas is in the materials used for  protective lenses. At present, Polycarbonate is mainly used as it is durable and easy to manufacture. The researchers are looking into nylon materials which are even lighter and also transparent. Anything that can shave even a bit of weight for the soldier to carry and still provides or exceeds the same level of eye protection is always welcome.

Another is the recent concerns with lasers, especially green lasers that can either temporarily and permanently blind anyone when a laser is shone directly into the eye. The military is a heavy user of lasers as these are used for many purposes apart from aiming. Lasers are also widely available and even powerful ones can be bought by civilians. The researchers are working to protect the eyes  especially in low light conditions. If these can be done, aircraft pilots would be wanting to wear this as there have been incidents in which pilots get green laser shone on their cockpits endangering the pilots and aircraft passengers.

(Photo Credit: Staff Sgt. Mark Burrell, U.S. Army)

Sand, fogging, and scratches are areas that the researchers are working to resolve. Fogging is always a persistent problem, even for airsoft players fogging is their worst enemy while out in the field as vision gets impaired and it's not that easy to clear the lenses while all the BBs flying around.  Sand can get into impossible places, and thus sealing will especially for goggles will need to be improved. Sand is also abrasive that they can scratch lenses. Scratch is also a problem that when lenses get scratched, the scratch marks will do block or distort the vision and can also distract that eyes that soldiers will remove their eyewear, exposing their eyes to more threats.  The researches will need to improve the protective coating for the lenses to make them fog and scratch-proof.

The last part is the use of prescription lenses and rather than continue with allowing to have provisions for prescription glasses behind the protective eyewear, the researchers want to incorporate a single-lens solution with the protective lenses already meeting the prescription of the soldier. This may mean a more custom approach in issuing it lenses for those who have vision problems as they will need an eye check before the ballistic eyewear gets issued to them.

These are areas that airsofters, and even athletes would be looking forward for developments. Even if without the bells and whistles such as smart eyewear which is part of the wearable computer rage these days, a proper eye protection that does improve on what has been developed for the military in the previous years would be something that we can all settle form and be totally satisfied with. The Ghost Recon capabilities would be just a bonus.

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