Saturday, 29 January 2011

Is DARPA the future of thermal imaging?

Last week DARPA ... you know ... the people who invented the internet ... published a 'funding opportunity' called Broad Agency Announcement: Low Cost Thermal Imager Manufacturing

It's got this snappy URL for access to the PDF:

www.fbo.gov/utils/view?id=b332544b1b6c59a8f94eed3413e842c0

Basically they want manufacturers to come up with thermal imaging devices that can be used by 'warfighters' in much the same way most of them now use image intensifiers. They want it small, such as to work in or with a smart phone or PDA, low cost, evolutionary rather than evolutionary (no chance for the micro-yagi imager idea then) and to work in the 8-12 micron band. This was described to me by a contact at NASA as the place 'where bodies glow best'.

There's a good analysis of this story in the Register but even more interesting is the idea that this kind of thermal imager could be combined in a broad-spectrum augmented reality display which, eventually, we all could wear. These could be glasses or even contact lenses and could allow us, or an intelligent system working on our behalf, to show us a range of views of the world ranging from the visible we already see, through image intensifiers and near-infrared to thermal. Great for hill-walking or even driving at night.

If DARPA achieve their goal (which isn't certain of course) then this could be coming to a headset near you within a few years ... because DARPA want this to cost less that $500, be lighter than 25 grams and say "If successful, the IR cell phone camera-like approach will lead to widespread proliferation in military and consumer products."

I can't wait.

No comments:

Post a Comment