Created by the US Department of Homeland SecuritySelf-defense and non-lethal means of incapacitating an assailant are very important issues nowadays and that's the reason why quite a large number of organizations are conducting active research in this field, as they try to obtain the "perfect" mean of calming down a violent person without actually affecting his/her physical integrity. And one of the latest announcements in this field comes from none other than the US Department of Homeland Security (a.k.a. DHS), who's working on a very special type of flashlight that will incapacitate an aggressor by making him/her extremely sick.
Thus, according to an article by Prachi Patel-Predd for MIT's Technology Review, it would seem that the people over at DHS are collaborating with the California-based Intelligent Optical Systems company for developing a special light-emitting device (namely, a flashlight) which uses special control circuitry, multicolored LEDs and special optics that together produce disorienting and nausea-inducing patterns of ultrabright flashing colors.
As Robert Lieberman, CEO of Intelligent Optical Systems, informed the author of the aforementioned article, the flashes incapacitate a person in two different ways. First, they temporarily blind the aggressor, as any bright light would, but since the light pulses, quickly changing both in color and duration, the assailant also suffers some psychophysical effects. Said effects are not permanent (they last only for a few minutes) and depend on the constitution of the person subjected to the lights, ranging from disorientation to vertigo to nausea.
Nevertheless, this concept might encounter some bumps on the road, as there are several issues which have to be solved before this thing hits mass production. Thus, first and foremost, the device is quite bulky in its present state and it will take some time before the size is reduced. Moreover, it's not particularly effective during day time, or when the aggressor is wearing sunglasses, which means that it will be probably be used mostly during night time.
However, it would seem that these things will be available quite soon, since, according to DHS, they'll become a standard piece in the equipment of the border-security agents and the National Guard by 2010. And the moment they do, all aggressors will be in for a "sick" time.
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