These days cell phones are useful for a variety of things: surfing the web, texting, GPS and maps, pretty much any app you can think of, and, of course, making the occasional phone call. But, what if you had night vision on your cell phone? I’m not talking some cheap app you can buy and download that puts a greenish hue over every picture or video you take or a filter that creates the illusion of preconceived notions of what night vision should look like. I’m talking genuine night vision, comparable to that used by the US Military and is found in goggles, scopes, and other optics. What could possibly be the benefit of adding it to a cell phone? Well, once the new thin, lightweight film developed by University of Florida researcher Franky So comes to market, we’ll have a definitive answer.
Well, for starters, good night vision isn’t exactly cheap. While it’s generally available to consumers, goggles and scopes—depending on the technology and it’s generation—can run anywhere between a couple hundred dollars to several thousand dollars. It’s no wonder not every kid on the block is running around with a pair of goggles. With this new development, which is a film compared to OLED (organic light emitting diode) technology is said to be incredibly affordable. While putting it In cell phones might not seem like the most practical application, it does sell the point and gives it marketability for other applications.
Most night vision devices available today, in addition to being expensive, can be bulky and weighty, which aren’t ideal for both civilian and military use. In a cell phone, not only would the technology go much more mainstream. However, given what many tend to use their cell phones for—little more than expensive toys with monthly fees—the inclusion of night vision might just unlock more people’s inner Paris Hilton. A digital form of night vision is available in many video cameras, it’s usually fairly low quality and if you understood the reference in the last sentence more then you should, then you know what I’m talking about.
Though, more on a more serious level, So does continue to state the technology could be useful in car windshields and wearable glasses. As applied to windshields, the benefit is obvious: enhanced night visibility. One serious question, that So hasn’t addressed, does come up. How would a windshield capable of displaying night vision interact with headlights and taillights? Given the nature of current night vision technologies such as active illumination and image intensification, the immediate answer might be, “not very well.” However, since this is a new and “in-development” technology, we can give it the benefit of the doubt, since it is highly likely So and other researchers have or will address this possible issue.
The other type of night vision, thermal imaging, also hasn’t been discussed at length by the University of Florida researchers publicly, but if it could be applied in a similar fashion, as a thin film, it could be just as, or more, beneficial for windshield application as it would allow for the identification of pedestrians.
As it stands, it’s a wait-and-see proposition. It’s likely the US Military will essentially get first crack at the technology, followed by commercial application and availability. While there are many practical uses for it, such as wildlife observation, hunting, and home security, it’s something a lot of people will have fun with, and understandably so. What would you do with night vision on your phone?
Craig Pearson is an avid hunter, outdoorsman, and adventurist. His main passions are hog hunting in Texas and writing about his many adventures. He currently blogs for nightvision4less.com, a supplier of high quality night vision equipment.