How Arctic Reindeer will help us see in the dark!

Move over Rudolph, your Reindeer cousins have something cooler than a glowing nose!

Researchers have recently discovered a very interesting trait that Reindeer have up in the dark north of the Arctic Circle. In the summer, the reindeer's eyes are gold, but during the winter season they change to a bright blue color.

Neuro-scientists investigated the eyes of the reindeer after they received samples from reindeer that were killed in the summer and the winter, and noticed that their eye color was different. After investigating further into the mystery, they discovered that all of the blue reindeer eyes that they had samples from came from reindeer that died in the winter.

After dissecting the eyes, it was shown that the fibers that were on the reindeer's retina were compressed closer together, which causes the retina to appear more blue. The blue color is important because it doesn't reflect as much light back out of the eye. The result is that more light is absorbed by the eye cells, and cause the reindeer to see more light at night. It did have a drawback though, as the compression of the retina fibers made images less visually sharp.

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So how can we use this?

Night vision goggles are already a commonly used advancement in technology, but are large, bulky, and aren't very good at allowing peripheral vision. And almost all of current night vision goggles have to be powered by some source of electricity.

Using the new "Reindeer Eye Filter, (REF)" it replaces the electronic components of the night vision goggles with an extremely thin layer of compressed optic fibers much like the retina of the Arctic Reindeer. Requiring no power, all light has to do is pass through it, and the low light levels are amplified.

This means 3 big uses for humans!

1. Because the "REF" requires no power, it can drastically reduce the weight of large optical headsets used by helicopter pilots in military situations, allowing the pilot to have more natural head movements.

2. Because the "REF" can be put on pretty much any flat surface; car windshields could be made that would make it easier for drivers to go out at night!

3. Because the design is so simple, night vision capabilities can be made cheaply, and can be accessible to anybody for a low price. No more need to buy an expensive headset!

The Design Process

Prototype 1: The original idea was to replace the filters in current Night Vision Goggles, making them not have to rely on electricity to work. However, even with the lack of the power source, the headset or binoculars were still large and bulky, making them less practical. Also, the miniature mirrors within the headset were known to crack and break, making the headset useless.

Prototype 2: Thinking about cutting the weight drastically, the second attempt went for a traditional glasses look. The second prototype was indeed less bulky, but unless they were made with straps the glasses were prone to fall off. The glass was also known to scratch and scrape off some of the REF.

Prototype 3: Continuing to try to make the REF as easy to wear as possible, contact lenses were used to virtually eliminate the problem of bulk. Because the REF can be made so thin, it was perfect to place on the flexible plastic lens. The contacts can be made to fit any eye prescription, and also can be made relatively inexpensive compared to previous designs. The only drawback would be a lack of a zoom.

Information Found from:

Choi, C. (2013, October 30). Why reindeer eyes turn blue in the winter. Retrieved October 8, 2015, from