FLIR thermal imaging camera story

A friend pointed out just now that there is a thermal imaging camera attachment available from FLIR Systems for the iPhone 5. That would be a lot of fun! FLIR (a somewhat lost acronym for “forward-looking infrared”) is the company that made the thermal imaging camera (note: thermal imaging camera or microbolometer is not the same as an IR camera) that I used in India for the research project I was involved in there, which we still have in the lab. (I think FLIR are really the only ones that make this stuff.) It’s not quite as portable as the iPhone version would be, but I keep thinking it would be super fun to bust it out for a party.  You would do something like, have the camera pointed at a blank wall backdrop, with a projector screen facing it so people can see themselves while they screw around. Then if you put your hand on the wall it leaves a visible handprint in the image… like this example from someone who I think probably has the iPhone version:

 
here’s some kids having moderately irresponsible fun with a thermal camera
 
Anyway, the reason FLIR does their stuff is originally for military applications, because a thermal imaging camera makes it really, really really easy to see the exhaust ports of anything with a combustion engine. So they use them in the tracking systems for missiles. 
 
When I was bringing the camera back from India the first time, I was taking it through airport security in India. The Indian security guy opened it up and asked what it was and I said it was an infrared camera. He said it didn’t look like a camera, I said it was special high tech research camera. He said “I don’t recognize this, I don’t know what it is, but you say it’s a camera. Can you turn it on and show me that it is a camera?” I said sure, but then I couldn’t find a power plug adapter right away. While I was fishing around he said “I am going to go ask my supervisor what to do” and walked away. The businessman getting his bags out behind me kindly offered to let me borrow a power adapter.  We chatted momentarily. The security guy came back and said “I have decided to trust you.”
 
At that moment the business guy said “FLIR systems, that’s a nice camera.” The security guy looked at him and asked, “You know this one?” The guy said “Sure, it’s military hardware, it’s used in attack helicopters.”
 
That was definitely one of the moments when I’ve seen the most extreme and rapid transition of someone’s facial emotion expression ever in my life. I thought the security guy was going to have a heart attack, and also shoot me and arrest me probably all at the same time.  I looked at the business guy and said sternly, “Yes, but it’s harmless because it’s just a camera, right?” He readily agreed and said “Oh yes, it’s completely harmless.  It’s just a camera.”
 
So I made it through without any trouble after that.
 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s