About 80 years ago, the world first heard about night vision devices (NVDs). Only a little time has passed since then, but they have changed beyond recognition. Technological progress resulted in the emergence of 3 generations of such optics, each of which was ahead of its predecessors. Recently, the idea has been put forward to classify modern NVDs into the Gen IV category. This hypothesis caused much controversy, and no answers were given to the existence of the fourth generation of devices. To understand all the subtleties and answer any questions yourself, you need to study all aspects of this topic in detail.
What is Gen IV?
The existence of the fourth generation of NVDs is shrouded in mystery. Its history began just a few years ago when most optical manufacturers announced their desire to create a separate category of devices. It was supposed to include advanced models with the highest possible characteristics and comprehensive functionality. This idea was realized, and the first Gen IV models were presented to the world. After the presentation, such NVDs received much positive feedback after the presentation, but the situation changed after a few weeks. This happened when Gen IV hit the test site where the US Army tested it. They were dissatisfied with most of the innovations and considered them meaningless. Also, soldiers and officers expressed that these optics could not be as helpful as possible in combat.
The opinion of the military was heard, so the creation of Gen IV had to be abandoned. Even though modern devices do not have the official status of fourth-generation models, many manufacturers still began to call their new products Gen IV optics. If we put aside this clever marketing ploy, then such NVDs are nothing more than improved III-generation models. The changes affect most characteristics, but the difference between the previous and current values is insignificant. Nevertheless, modern Gen IV marking works wonders, and people buy expensive optics.
Advantages and disadvantages
Devices that manufacturers classify as models of the fourth category are of sufficient quality and efficient in operation. In addition, they have many other positive attributes that make them the top NVDs of today. Despite the idealization of Gen IV, devices in this category have several disadvantages. It is they who do not allow optics to become the most popular.
- compact size;
- improved characteristics;
- perfect image quality;
- ability to withstand overloads;
- reliable protection against any external influences;
- economical energy consumption;
- wide scope;
- good work for several years;
- environmental friendliness.
- high price compared to models of previous generations;
- periodic decrease in efficiency (when specific settings are selected).
Features of Gen IV devices
All devices classified under the Gen IV category share standard features. They make such devices well recognizable among other optics that people use. Experts identify eight essential elements that everyone should pay attention to.
- Smaller thickness of the ion barrier film. This design element is one of the key ones in modern NVDs. It is applied to the microchannel plate and prevents excessive positive ions from escaping from its surface. For models related to Gen IV, such a film is several times thinner (most often three times) than for third-generation devices. The latter is due to exposure to bright radiation that accidentally enters the lens of NVDs. This feature maximizes the protection of the photocathode, thereby making it resistant to overloads. Reducing the film thickness does not affect the performance of the device. This is important for users who want to get the most out of their NVDs.
- Modern microchannel plate. This detail is a must for any modern NVDs. In previous versions of the devices, a standard plate was used, which has stayed the same for a long time and has become obsolete. It was replaced by an improved model, which was ahead of all its predecessors in many ways. This state-of-the-art microchannel plate can amplify the flow of electrons more efficiently, making it possible to improve some device performance parameters.
- Undervoltage of the switching power supply. This critical feature is typical for all NVDs manufacturers called the fourth generation. Due to the lower voltage values, it is possible to minimize the possibility of overload. Therefore, even if a bright light flash appears near, no problems will occur with the electron-optical converter. It is also important to note that changing the voltage did not affect the performance of the optics and did not reduce its working life.
- Increased light gain. This characteristic is one of the keys to any NVDs. It shows the ability of the device to amplify the light a certain number of times. This figure is always higher for Gen IV models than for Gen III. The difference is about 10,000 times. This is far from the limit, so it is necessary to wait for an even more significant increase in light gain in a few years.
- Increased range. This indicator shows the user the distance from which NVDs can capture light or heat waves. For devices allocated in Gen IV, it is 80-120 meters more than the optics of the previous generation. Many experts call such a difference insignificant. However, even a slight increase can make a difference in some cases.
- Increased working resources. Gen III devices can work without breakdowns for approximately 8-10 thousand hours. This is a good indicator of the reliability and durability of the optics. However, Gen IV models have a 2000-2500 hours longer life. This feature is explained by modern developments actively introduced into fourth-generation optics. They increase the reliability of each node, thereby reducing the likelihood of failure of the entire device.
- Improved protection. The latest generation NVDs are better than their predecessors in almost every way. Defense is no exception. The case of such devices is completely sealed, which makes it possible to operate in any weather, in extreme conditions, and even under water. The tightness of the case also completely excludes the ingress of any small particles (dust, sand, etc.) or microscopic insects. Another improved aspect is the increased durability of NVDs. It is achieved through unique materials with a properly selected composition. Due to the increase in strength, the optics become less vulnerable to various mechanical influences.
- Versatility. This feature is no less important than all the previous ones. She points out that Generation IV NVDs can be used almost anywhere. In all cases, such devices will be helpful to a person, and with their help, he can quickly complete the tasks. The versatility of Gen IV NVDs is slightly eclipsed by the high cost of all models being produced. Because of this, today, they are used only in those areas of activity where such large financial prices are appropriate.
Options for further modernization
The development of NVDs continues, and its high pace still needs to be reduced. This suggests that devices may appear that will be officially announced as Gen IV generation models in a few weeks, months, or years. It has yet to be known how they will differ from today's NVDs, but the approximate directions for future modernization are already known.
The main directions of modernization:
- Further universalization. Today's so-called IV-generation NVDs are already universal so they can be used anywhere. However, further universalization of night optics will take place in subsequent years. Future devices will be able to handle hundreds of tasks equally effectively. It is also planned to combine the characteristics of military and civilian models. If this happens, then the new generation of NVDs will be able to become as helpful as possible in war, in security and rescue activities, in hunting, and during recreational activities.
- Simplification of work. All manufacturers of NVDs try to make operating their devices as simple as possible. In the future, this direction of modernization will remain relevant. Experts suggest that, shortly, work will be carried out to reduce the weight and dimensions of the optics. This will significantly increase users' comfort and simplify the device's long-term use. In addition, maximum automation of all processes is expected. For simplicity, future NVDs can independently choose the optimal settings using embedded artificial intelligence. If all the above ideas are implemented, then the process of controlling the optics will be reduced to pressing a few buttons.
- Speed up work. The difference between a user command and its execution is relatively tiny, but it can sometimes be significant. Even the most modern NVDs, under certain operating conditions, can work with a slight delay. In the future, work on reducing the distance will be carried out as actively as possible. Therefore, good news in this matter should be expected very soon.
- Wireless. Kilometers of wires are gradually becoming a thing of the past. Already today, most the technology can work via wireless communication. In the next few years, there will be a qualitative leap in the development of wireless technologies, making their use commonplace. In NVDs, wireless communication can be used to synchronize the operation of multiple instruments. It will also be useful for remote control of optics. The last idea is the most attractive, so specialists and ordinary users look forward to its implementation.
- Increased reliability. New-generation NVDs are not standards of reliability. Under certain operating conditions, they give unforeseen failures, which negatively affect the efficiency of the tasks. Work on correcting the deficiencies is already underway. However, in the future, its pace will not decrease. Significant changes should be expected soon, so using the most reliable optics in a few years will be possible.
- Image enhancement. The new generation of NVDs can produce a high-quality, but not ideal, image on the screen. There is room for further development, so work in this direction will be very active in the coming years. However, to significantly improve the quality of the picture, you need to make a particular breakthrough, the prerequisites for which still need to be observed. Nevertheless, the probability of a successful outcome is still relatively high.
- Combination of several technologies. One of the most anticipated upgrades is the ability to combine two or more technologies in NVDs. If such an idea is implemented, users will be able to receive a clear and detailed image. Most often, developers mention the combination of thermal imaging and edge illumination technology. This option will allow you to display a heat map on which various objects will be outlined with a bright outline. This will improve the perception of the image and help you quickly find interesting people or different inanimate objects on it. There are also ideas for creating other combinations, but the developers must disclose their details.
- Augmented reality. This fashionable modern development is gradually taking its place in people's lives. The developers of the new generation NVDs do not ignore it either. There are now the first test models of various devices (most often NV glasses), which form an image of the examined area and a scoreboard with different information before the user's eyes. In the future, this innovation will be helpful in multiple locations. For example, the military can receive orders from the command using augmented reality without stopping hostilities.
- Color choice. Now most NVDs III and IV generations display the picture in green. This is due to the recommendations of doctors who consider this shade the safest for vision. However, according to recent studies, long-term observation of such a picture leads to excessive eye fatigue. Its consequence is increased eye pressure and a gradual decrease in visual acuity. To prevent this, the developers of NVDs are trying to implement a different color. Work in this direction is carried out with varying success. At the same time, there is no doubt that in the future, each user will be able to independently choose the color of the display on the screen in the settings.
- Expansion of the field of application of the IR spectrum. Modern NVDs use the infrared spectrum only to improve the quality of the picture on the screen. However, its scope may be expanded in the future. While the developers do not give specific information, conversations on this topic are underway.
Many experts argue about NVDs of the Gen IV generation. Some call them a myth created to increase the demand for ordinary optics, while others call them tomorrow's reality. Both statements have the right to exist. Therefore, it is up to everyone to determine whose version is correct. While such disputes are ongoing, NVDs continue to be modernized, gradually becoming more and more effective. In the future, they will be as helpful to people as possible, regardless of their generation.