Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Handheld Thermal Imaging

Caterpillar, the maker of bobcats and backhoes, is not the first company you would expect to make a smartphone. Nonetheless, the company is poised to release one in June, the Caterpillar S60. The S60 is an android phone that will be marketed to people who work in the construction industry, so it's extra-rugged and waterproof at depths up to five meters. Its most unusual feature, though, is a built-in thermal imaging camera from Flir, a company that has previously made add-on thermal cameras for smartphones.

Flir imagines that others, including emergency first responders and outdoor enthusiasts, may also find uses for the phone. If police come across an abandoned car, for example, they can use the thermal imaging camera to determine whether the engine or seats are still warm, or whether there's a body anywhere in the vicinity. The heat sensor is on the back of the phone, just above the 13-megapixel camera. Use the two together and you get not just a heat map, but a picture that combines the heat map with details observed by the camera that add extra context, such as architectural and facial features.

The preinstalled Flir app is slightly different from what you'd download if you bought a plug-in thermal imaging sensor. It's designed to take full advantage of the phone's octa-core processing capabilities and the latest version of Google's Android software, nicknamed Marshmallow. If you capture an image and want to find out later what the exact temperature was in any particular spot, it's possible to press on it to find out -- all of that detail is captured with the picture and stored in its metadata.

Here's the thing - just last week at the lodge, we were talking about how great it would be to have a thermal imaging camera for use during evocations. One of the most common effects produced by spirits are temperature fluctuations. At least, that's what they feel like. It would be pretty awesome to be able to record one of these "heat maps" for a ritual and see if the apparent shifts are objective or perceptual. Thermal imaging cameras are also used by ghost hunters for tracking "cold spots" and other manifestations attributed to hauntings. The S60 would be great for that, too.

I'm one of those oddballs who actually likes Windows Phone, so I don't know that I'll be picking one of these up any time soon. Still, if I ever did find myself in the market for an android phone, one with thermal imaging would be pretty cool and I could find plenty of paranormal uses for it.

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