Optical fibers woven into a soldier's uniform can collect light from all directions, with a wearable computer integrating the signals into a 3D complete surround image that redefines "eyes in the back of the head." Look for prototypes within five years and deployment within a decade. R.C.J.
By combining semiconductor layers and metal electrodes within optical fibers, researchers have demonstrated a distributed camera lens that can be woven into a fabric. Designed at the Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the fabric gathers light from all directions, then uses a wearable computer to integrate the signals into a 3-D image of the surrounding area. MIT researchers claim they can construct fibers in a bulk material that can then be melted in a special furnace so that components are drawn out into the tiny fibers while retaining the orientation of the various materials. Currently, the team is perfecting the algorithms which reconstruct the images while developing fibers with additional light-gathering layers for higher resolution and better differentiation between wavelengths of light for color images.