Smartphones are already doing so much more than just calling, texting and surfing the web. In the medical field, they've helped create in-the-field microscopes and spectrometers. They've also been used to watch cell cultures growing in real time.
The military is also finding uses for smartphones and tablets for troops, including apps for combat, and recently began to fund an effort to bring cheap thermal imagery technology to the devices.
New Scientist reports that today's thermal imaging technology is clunky and expensive. DARPA has funded Raytheon $13.4 million over a three year period to create system that will work on smartphones:
Thermal imaging shows how the world looks at infrared wavelengths of 8 to 12 micrometres. At those wavelengths, people, warm-blooded animals, and operating engines glow brightly against the cooler background of plants and soil. Firefighters use thermal imaging cameras to identify dangerous hot spots. Soldiers use them to check what might be lurking in the brush, especially in dim light.
"Making high-performance thermal imagers available to every vehicle, surveillance device and dismounted soldier will give them greater situational awareness in low light, adverse weather and obscured environments," said Charlie Cartwright, vice president of Raytheon Network Centric Systems' Advanced Programs, in a news release.
The Verge reports that Raytheon was potentially awarded this contract for previous development of the NightDriver, an infrared camera and HUD for vehicles created in 1990s. Check out the promo video for that technology:
The goal is to make the technology smaller and cheaper so each soldier could have one if his or her back pocket, if necessary. At some point, the technology -- once developed -- could become commercially available.