DARPA invests $13.4 million in thermal cameras for smartphones

The US military needed a better option of thermal vision than the current, extremely low resolution yet rather pricey pocket thermal cameras they have currently.  The new idea to get there is by giving Raytheon $13.4 million to miniaturize the IR imagers to the point that it fits in the likes of PDAs and smartphones.

Regardless of how cool the idea of thermal goggles is, a 160x120 resolution currently used in the field is both really poor quality and ridiculously bad value for money, as they can cost thousands of dollars.  With DARPA investment in Raytheon, we're still not going to get 1080p recording or high-resolution photography; but with an initial aim of 640x480, its definitely a start.  Other specs include a 40-degree field of view, a price of under $500 for the camera, and a power draw less than 500mW.  All rather admirable specs for military use, combining the demand for every soldier to carry a smartphone with some worthwhile combat uses other than playing Angry Birds.

History lesson: Raytheon created a pretty nifty infared camera and HUD for cars in 1996, which probably lent very nicely to this company's selection for this project by DARPA.  Take a look at the promo video below.

Source: Raytheon, DARPA release (pdf)

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