It turns out my nose is cold.
Smart phone cameras keep getting better and better. A device that used to take blurry images the size of a postage stamp can now take 40 megapixel panoramas, high definition video, and macro shots that rival DSLRs that cost 10x the price.
Your iPhone can see a lot of things, but there are still a few tricks that are just out of reach. Along with night vision, one of the most desirable optic advances would be thermal vision; from home improvement to security at night, there’s tremendous value to being able to see in hot-and-cold.
Night vision is popping up in more devices by the week, but thermal imaging is still expensive and generally out-of-reach to the average consumer. Unless your a vocational repairman (or ghost hunter), you’ve probably never even seen one in person.
That’s where the Seek Thermal camera for iOS and Android comes in. A disruptive new product, the Seek promises some incredible thermal imaging that rivals popular thermal cameras that cost five times as much (or even more). The Seek team sent me one to test out for the past month, and I’ve had a blast putting it through the paces.
What Does It Claim to Do?
The Seek Thermal camera is a small attachment for your smart phone that claims to display accurate thermal imagery with details that can’t be seen with the naked eye. Thermal imaging is nothing new, but the Seek is one of the first products that’s easy enough (and affordable enough) to be useful to the average joe.
- Available for both iOS and Android devices
- 206×156 resolution
- 36 degree field of view
- -40C to 330C Detection
- Small enough to fit in a pocket
Is one of the first mass market thermal cameras useful to the average consumer? Read on to find out!
Look and Feel
There’s not much to write about the Seek unit itself. I tested the iOS version, and it’s just a tiny black stick (similar in size to a matchbox) that plugs into the lightning port of an iPhone or iPad.
The app itself is pretty straightforward, with a simple interface that will be familiar to anyone who’s used a camera app in the last few years. It’s simple to use, and some handy advanced features (like thermometer overlays and split screen thermal views) are just a few taps away.
Performance and User Experience
The Seek has the magical ability to confirm things that you’ve suspected for years. It’s live thermal video feed makes temperature shifts clear and obvious, exposing everything from drafty doors to critters hiding in the bushes.
Simply pop the camera into your phone and within a second or so you’ll see the world around you in technicolor vision like the Predator (complete with the occasional clicking sound, oddly enough). I was immediately able to track down a major draft below our patio door, and was surprised to discover how hot my Xbox One was getting in our confined media cabinet. While I was giving a demo to the maintenance director at my church, he was even able to track down a water leak in the ceiling that had vexed him for years. It’s a really handy little gadget.
You can save photos of the results like any other camera app, making it easy to share trouble areas with the handyman or document the before-and-after efficiency of your repairs. The images are low detail (the sensor is extremely low resolution compared with a normal camera sensor), but the details of the hot and cold spots are easy to make out.
It’s simple to use, limited in scope, but invaluable in a number of scenarios.
Build Quality and Reliability
As I mentioned before, it’s just a tiny little black bar, but it seems extremely sturdy; I had no worries carrying it around in my pocket every day for a few weeks. The retail version even comes with a protective carrying case.
The camera also seems extremely reliable with no obvious quirks or bugs; the app launches quickly, is rock solid, and the temperature readings were spot on when I compared them with a thermometer.
The Seek just hit the market at the turn of the year for only $199, making it the most affordable thermal sensor on the market (that I can find, at least).
It’s not a gadget that everyone will find useful; however, if you’re at all interested in home efficiency, repair and maintenance, security, or even hunting, the Seek Thermal camera may end up being your secret weapon.