The new laser from Renova has arrived in the UK, and it looks a lot like the one that the BBC is reporting is “alarming” to some people.
The company says it has developed a laser that is capable of “directly blinding” people with a laser beam and is designed to be a “world-first”.
But it also has a few things going for it, says David Stroud, professor of technology and security at the University of Exeter.
“The company claims that it has a laser in its eye that can actually see, so it’s capable of blinding people with that laser, but it can’t actually see what it’s seeing, so you can’t see the person who’s being blinded.”
This is because the eye’s pupil is blocked, and so the laser can’t produce a direct beam.
So you have to focus it to the eye in order to see.
But that’s not the only difference.
Renova says that the laser is also capable of producing an invisible light that can be detected by human eyes, but that this light can be blocked by a layer of protective coating on the surface of the eye.
So if the person sees this invisible light, they won’t know it’s there.
And this invisible beam is also less likely to be seen by other people who are looking at the same spot.
“When the laser’s shining through the eye, it’s so focused on the person, it can actually create a beam of light that is invisible to them,” Dr Stroud explains.
“So even if you’re in a dark room and you’re looking at someone in a different room, if you can see that beam coming through the room, you know it was coming from that one person’s eye.”
So what does this mean for us as a society?
According to Renova, the new device has been designed so that it can “directively and immediately” “blind” people from one eye to the other.
This means it doesn’t need to be pointed at the person directly in order for it to be effective.
“It doesn’t work as a weapon in any way,” Dr Sully says.
“There’s no laser inside of it, so what it does is it actually turns off the laser, so there’s no light coming out of the lens of the eyeball, so that people won’t see that it’s coming from the other eye.”
Dr Stroy says that people will still be able to see what’s going on, even if they are blinded by the laser.
“In order for the eye to respond, it needs to be able, by looking in the other direction, to see the laser,” he says.
But he also adds that, in some circumstances, it may be possible to use a mask to block the laser from being directly seen.
“For example, if there’s a window behind you, and you want to look through the window and you see the light coming from behind you and you don’t want to disturb the person on the other side, you can use a sheet of film that’s just so thin that if you take the edge of it and cut it off, the person can’t tell that it was there,” Dr Nesbitt says.
He also suggests using gloves or face masks to protect the eyes, in order that the light won’t be blocked.
However, he cautions that the new technology is still in its “early stages” and there are “still a lot of unknowns”.
And he warns that people who have already been blinded from a laser will still have some difficulties seeing if they use the new product.
“This is not a perfect solution to all the problems associated with lasers,” he explains.
For example, a person can still be blinded from other lasers that are pointed at them, and a person may still be unable to tell that they’ve been blinded.
But Dr Stully says that while there are problems with the new Renova laser, it “could still provide a great opportunity for the UK to be at the forefront of technology that helps protect against attacks”.
Dr Stroe says that, although it has been “a very long journey”, the new lasers technology is “very, very exciting”.
It could potentially help reduce the cost of defence against the “next generation of attacks”, he says, as well as providing a way to make the technology cheaper and easier to produce in the future.
“One of the biggest challenges for the industry right now is the cost to produce these products,” he tells BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
“We need to reduce that cost.
And what we’re hoping for with this is to reduce the time it takes to make these lasers.”