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Flashlight that serves as a police weapon

Flashlight that serves as a police weapon

New disabling flashlight

According to an article published this month in Technology Review, soon not only will police flashlights temporarily blind robbers, they will be able to cope with them by disorienting them and causing them to vomit. Once the suspects stumble, the police can arrest and handcuff them.

This new flashlight uses a range finder to measure the distance to the target's eyes to adjust the light energy to a level that does not cause permanent damage. It then rapidly fires out a series of pulses of light from an array of super-bright LEDs.

According to Robert Lieberman, CEO of the Californian company Intelligent Optical Systems, and author of the device, the flashes incapacitate a person in two different ways: on the one hand, they produce temporary blindness, as would any bright light; on the other, pulses of light, which rapidly change in color and duration, produce what Lieberman calls psychophysical effects. These effects, whose effectiveness depends on the person, range from disorientation to vertigo or nausea, and disappear in a few minutes.

It is not yet clear why these changing light pulses produce such an effect, although it has been well documented, Lieberman notes. There are helicopter pilots, for example, who have crashed when the sharp flashes of sunlight through the rotating blades have been disoriented.

According to statements from the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which is financing the investigation of this new non-lethal weapon, the police, border security agents and the National Guard could be armed with the new flashlight to in 2010. The device is part of a broader initiative to develop non-lethal weapons that can help military personnel and police control crowds and riots.

The flashlight has some disadvantages: the person being pointed at could easily look away, or could be wearing tinted glasses. Therefore, it would be of no use in the event of an officer pursuing a suspect. "It's designed to be used on someone who's coming your way," says Lieberman. Also, the effects of sparkles are less during the day.

Researchers at Intelligent Optical Systems are now analyzing combinations of wavelengths and light intensities to find the ones that have the greatest effect on people while keeping them safe. They also aim to reduce the size of the device to make it more portable. In the fall, the team intends to extensively test these flashes on people from the Institute of Non-Lethal Defense Technology at Pennsylvania State University.

Source: Technology Review

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