The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) last week awarded $18.5 million in contracts to 10 industry and university teams to develop prototypes and new concepts for lightweight, enhanced night vision goggles that aren’t a pain in the neck for the user and also improve night vision.

Awards under the Enhanced Night Vision in Eyeglass Form (ENVision) program were made in two technical areas, one focused on developing multi-band, wide field-of-view planar optics and planar image intensifiers to demonstrate advanced night vision systems with almost no torque on the wearer’s neck, and the second to research new methods and concepts to “amplify photonic up-conversion processes from any infrared band to visible light to enable future ‘intensifier-free’ night vision systems,” DARPA said.

Contracts in the first technical area were awarded to Physical Sciences Inc., $3.4 million, Raytheon Technologies’ [RTX] Research Center, $3.1 million, SRI International, $2.5 million, Univ. of California, San Diego, $1.5 million, and Univ. of Washington, $2.2 million.

The awardees in the second technical area are Univ. of Melbourne, Australia, $1.4 million, Univ. of Pennsylvania, $1.4 million, Univ. of Central Florida, $570,589, Raytheon Technologies’ BBN Technologies, $1.1 million, and Stanford Univ., $1.3 million.

The contracts are for two years and don’t include potential options, which would increase their values.

“Technical Area 1 efforts will deliver lab prototypes of night vision systems that cover the near-infrared and one additional infrared band in form factors that provide near-zero torque on the user,” Rohith Chandrasekar, the ENVision program manager, told Defense Daily in an email. “Technical Area 2 efforts will deliver new concepts and experimental demonstrations on using photon up-conversion to convert ambient infrared photons to visible photons at intensities detectable by the human eye.”

DARPA said that current night vision systems provide a narrow field-of-view and are limited to the near-infrared spectral bands, greatly limiting situational awareness in varied night conditions.” It said that new advances in planar optics and transduction materials could mean the development of lightweight night vision systems without “bulky image intensifiers” and a wider field-of-view.