Jan. 8, 2014 at 4:17 PM ET
Thermal imaging devices are still something we mostly see in movies or used by professionals — but a new camera/case for iPhone from FLIR gives you real heat vision for a fairly low price. From finding problems in construction to scanning a dark alley for muggers, the applications are easy to imagine.
The FLIR One, being demoed at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, is an iPhone case with built-in cameras that capture heat and a normal image, letting you view one or both. Its resolution and accuracy are about half that of more serious, multi-thousand-dollar devices, but it's still quite sensitive.
For instance, the residual heat from a hand touching a box was visible to the imager, as presumably footsteps or some other trace would be. And a cup of hot tea, some exposed skin and a cold beer all showed as about the temperature they should have been.
The case isn't too bulky, about as big as a normal battery case. It has its own power source so it won't drain your iPhone, though you'll have to charge it separately.
At $350, it's not an impulse buy, but cheap thermal imaging might be handy for anyone doing a bit of home maintenance, or looking to spot wildlife or people after dark. More technical details can be found at the FLIR website.