Futuristic gadgets provide high tech help for military, astronauts

6:36 PM, Jan 8, 2010   |    comments
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Liteye Systems uses the latest advancements in optics to bring a live video or computer feed right in front of the users eyes.

"It's really nice to know that some soldier somewhere can get a video uplink and be able to see an image from an unmanned vehicle or a bomb disposal unit using it to see an image from a robot," said Kenneth Geyer, Liteye's vice president of international sales.

The company started in 2000 as an offshoot of a virtual reality company.

"We had a Navy customer who asked for a head mounted display for a helicopter. We really couldn't find anybody to build something like that back then, so we went ahead and built it," Geyer said.

That lead to other orders and eventually Geyer and his business partners realized the great business opportunity. They sold the virtual reality company and focused completely on mobile optical units.

Now the company builds tiny monitors. Some are direct view like the kind used in video camera eyepieces, while others are see-through.

"The sexier part of our company is the head mounted displays," Geyer explained. "The patented see-through technology that we have to have an image overlaid; that has gotten embraced by the military."

The head mounted displays can now be found everywhere from Navy cockpits to Army tanks. In fact, the British Army has used the technology to give their tank drivers the ability to see at night, using infrared.

"One of the nice things is when someone buries a roadside bomb they've changed the structure of the dirt so it looks different. So now they can see that temperature change and go around it. It may not be a bomb, but why risk it?" Geyer asked.

The company's partners are even teaming up the hard wear with new futuristic software, which is now helping astronauts at the International Space Station take on maintenance projects without any training.

"It overlays that schematic or the directions over his view and it's actually talking him through repairing a hot water heater or something. It walks him through that step by step," Geyer said.

That concept could soon be put to work back here on Earth. BMW and the Army are considering similar set ups that would help mechanics diagnose problems with vehicles and then fix them, again without any training.

The company even sees where the gadget would come in handy on Colorado's ski slopes.

"If you are skiing or snowboarding and you've got a pair of goggles and you had the GPS map of the hill right there, I don't care how foggy it gets or how snowed in you get, you'd be able to know where you were," Geyer said. "Somebody sees something cool in a movie, a sci-fi movie and you get the phone calls and the e-mails. They want to buy it and they want that. But of course it needs to be developed."

If Liteye's gadgets seem like something from Q's Lab in the James Bond movies, you're right. They often receive requests from customers after a new device shows up on the big screen.

"Somebody sees something cool in a movie, a sci-fi movie and you get the phone calls and the e-mails. They want to buy it and they want that," Geyer said.

The only problem is that unlike in movies, Liteye's engineers face limitations in just how far technology will go.

"You've got a little teeny display, no cables, it's all wireless, it's big picture. Those are all great and we'd all like to get there and hopefully the technology will get us there," Geyer said.

The company is already planning for the future. Geyer says he is amazed by how far technology has grown in the past decade and he knows big developments are on the horizon.

"One day you'll see a display that's built into your jacket or your shirt, just like you have a watch on, it will be a display. Things like that that are coming in this industry and are just around the corner and are not that far off," Geyer said.

Liteye was recently selected as one of the 50 Colorado Companies to Watch by the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade. Every Friday 9NEWS is reporting about another company, highlighting its success in this difficult economy.

To see those stories, visit http://www.9news.com/life/programming/shows/mornings/ctw/.


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