DARPA Want Their Smart Phones to Rock Thermal Cameras

Night vision is cool. It's also incredibly useful, too, which is why the US military is funding a project that will make it cheap enough to feature on your phone.

DARPA is ploughing $13.4 million of funding into vision systems company Raytheon in order for them to build infra-red cameras that are cheap enough to provide one to every soldier in the US army. Essentially that means creating devices that can be used in smart phones or PDAs. Which is better than the current dorky-looking systems.

But given that the current state-of-the-art is so expensive — a device with incredibly low resolution, say 160x120 pixels, can cost thousands of dollars — don't expect the images to rival your 8MP phone camera just yet. DARPA is aiming to create a 640 x 480 resolution infra-red camera, with a 40-degree field of view, which will draw less than 500mW of power. They also aim to have them cost under $500 each.

If they pull that off, it's only a matter of time before we'll see night vision cameras on our phones, too. Until then, you'll have to make do with a torch. [New Scientist; Image: The U.S. Army]