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Hands on: FLIR One thermal camera for iPhone

updated 05:53 pm EST, Wed January 8, 2014

Case integrates thermal imager

Among the many iPhone accessories announced at CES, FLIR's thermal-camera case was a particularly unique introduction. The device essentially replicates the functionality of FLIR's standalone thermal-imaging cameras, but well under the $1000+ price tags of the industrial niche tools. We had a chance to see the FLIR One case in action at CES and ponder its many uses for average consumers.

FLIR products have been in use for many years as essential tools for the military, search-and-rescue crews, energy-efficiency consultants and other industries. The expensive cameras use an infrared sensor to show heat gradients, making a human glow bright yellow against a cooler blue background.

As the "polar vortex" continues to set record-low temperatures in many US states, causing a spike in natural-gas prices, many people will be wondering how to make their home more efficient. Finding places where heat escapes isn't always easy, but trouble spots become glaringly obvious when viewed on a thermal camera. The FLIR One can also be used to spot moisture entry into a ceiling or wall, even if damage isn't already visible on the surface, or the heat emanating from an overloaded circuit.

A thermal camera also can be useful for certain sports, enabling hunters to see where an animal is hiding in the bush. Campers could scan around their tent at night to figure out if that rustling noise was from a raccoon or a grizzly bear, while boaters would have a useful tool in a man-overboard situation at night or when navigating through a busy waterway in the fog.

Potential buyers can sign up to reserve the FLIR One when it ships this spring for $350.

by MacNN Staff



  1. Makosuke

    Forum Regular

    Joined: 08-06-01

    The resolution must be extremely low to keep it that small and cheap--I'm going to guess somewhere in the 40x40px range, based on what their professional cameras have and that screenshot--but that screenshot looks like they have a novel way of adding usefulness to it when there is also visible light available.

    Appears that they're adding an overlay of texture based on visible light from the regular iPhone camera so you can map contours and textures to the much blurrier heat map underneath, which lets you figure out a lot more about what you're seeing than you'd get with just the IR image. Pretty cool, actually, and even with a really low-res IR image, you can still get a lot of information.

    I sure want one.

  1. sibeale1

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 02-23-06

    Right, go camping with one mounted on your gun and everything will look like a bear, including the guy in the next tent who's gone for a leak.

  1. Makosuke

    Forum Regular

    Joined: 08-06-01

    A correction to my previous comment, the actual resolution according to FLIR is 80x60, and with stills they claim it uses some kind of interpolation or enhancement to produce double that, 160x120. The samples they have on their website actually look quite nice.

    They also note that the overlay is produced by a VGA-resolution built-in visible light camera, not the iPhone's camera, so I guessed wrong on that.

  1. Wingsy

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 04-14-05

    Uh oh .....
    "Thermal images shown are for illustration purposes only, and may not have been taken by the camera series depicted."
    So the jury is still out. Have to wait and see what it will really do once they have something that actually exists. Have to wait anyway, since all they're doing now is taking names to let you know when it's ready.

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