Today a "laser blinder" can be a euphemism for a device that can scramble police speed guns, but in the early 1990s, it referred to a far more terrifying military weapon being developed at the time by the US and other countries. Its development was arrested mostly due to international outcry that use of military laser dazzlers would be extremely cruel and inhumane, and the weapons were condemned both by the International Red Cross and the United Nations. However, as late as 1995 China was cited to still be developing and selling blinding laser weapons such as the AM-87 Neodymium Laser Blinder, and such weapons may already be undergoing second or third generation development there. Also, many nations, including the US, are developing laser weapons whose secondary effects may cause blindness, as the UN conference forbids only dedicated-purpose dazzler weapons. For example, the US Military抯 Saber 203, a rifle-mount "laser illuminator," is designed primarily as a laser designator, range finder, and anti-optical sensor measure, but can also easily be used as a dazzler as well.
Laser dazzlers started out somewhat simply as a form of non-lethal crowd control and tactical area denial. The idea was to scan a laser quickly over a crowd, using a low-powered beam to "dazzle" the people into temporary blindness. Unlike other types of laser weapons, the beam would not be tightly focused, in order to hit as large an area as practical, but would still have enough energy density to burn enough of the retina to cause vision loss.
Using the blinder laser dazer gun rifle-like to target each human target eyes was considered impractical, both for crowd-control and battlefield use. What was needed was to play the beam quickly over a wide enough area to hit many potential targets near-simultaneously. This was solved through several methods. One was to use a focusing prism that rapidly moved or rotated on the end of the beam projector. Another was to use a large concave mirror, onto which the focused laser beam was quickly played across and reflected at the targets. Both methods allowed the weapon to cover a wide cone-like area in a fraction of a second, potentially blinding dozens of victims with every pull of the trigger.
Laser dazzlers also had another insidious innovation; by operating in the near-infrared spectrum, which the eye is transparent to but which does not register as light, dazzler weapons can do their damage without invoking the blink-reaction that normally protects the eye.
Dazzlers also have the added advantage of being able to blind enemy visual sensors, including those on fighting vehicles, artillery, and missile emplacements. The US military has two prototype anti-sensor laser blinders in development, the Dazer and the Cobra. Both are static lasers meant primarily to detect and neutralize enemy optical and electro-optical sensors for various weapons systems. As such they are designed for pinpoint fire mode as opposed to the scanning fire mode used for "crowd control" laser blinders.