Do you know how you see those cheap telescopes at the department store? The box has beautiful pictures that probably came from the Hubble. What you will see is somewhat different. You have to carefully look at [upir’s] Arduino thermal camera project because it intersperses pictures of what you expect an 8×8 sensor will produce with images produced by a much better camera.
The actual project — watch the video below — is undoubtedly neat. An inexpensive 8×8 IR sensor and an 8X8 LED panel join to form a crude but usable thermal camera.
Whenever phone-based thermal cameras are brought up here on Hackaday, we inevitably receive some comments about how they’re a bad investment compared to a standalone unit. Sure they might be cheaper, but what happens in a couple years when the app stops working and the manufacturer no longer feels like keeping it updated?
It’s a valid concern, and if we’re honest, we don’t like the idea of relying on some shady proprietary app just to use the camera in the first place. Which is why we’re so excited to see open source software being developed that allows you to use these (relatively) inexpensive cameras on your computer. [Les Wright] recently sent word that he’s been working on a project called PyThermalCamera which specifically targets the TOPDON TC001, which in turn is based on a project called P2Pro-Viewer developed by LeoDJ for the InfiRay P2 Pro.
Readers may recall we posted a review of the P2 Pro last month, and while the compact hardware was very impressive, the official Android software lacked a certain degree of polish. While these projects won’t help you on the mobile front in their current form, it’s good to know there’s at least a viable “Plan B” if you’re unwilling or unable to use the software provided from the manufacturer. Naturally this also opens up a lot of new possibilities for the camera, as being connected to a proper Linux box means you can do all sorts of interesting things with the video feed.
Speaking of the video feed, we should say that both of these projects were born out of a reverse engineering effort by members of the EEVblog forums. They figured out early on that the InfiRay (and other similar models) were picked up as a standard USB video device by Linux, and that they provided two video streams: one being a B&W feed from the camera where the relative temperature is used as luminance, and the other containing the raw thermal data cleverly encoded into a green-tinted video. With a little poking they found an FFmpeg one liner that would combine the two streams, which provided the basis for much of the future work.
In the video below, you can see the review [Les] produced for the TOPDON TC001, which includes a demonstration of both the official Windows software and his homebrew alternative running on the Raspberry Pi. Here’s hoping these projects inspire others to join in the effort to produce flexible open source tools that not only unlock the impressive capabilities of these new thermal cameras but save us from having to install yet another smartphone application just to use a device we purchased.
It probably won’t surprise you to learn that Hackaday is constantly hounded by companies that want us to review their latest and greatest gadget. After all, getting us to post about their product is cheaper, easier, and arguably more effective than trying to come up with their own ad campaign. But if you’ve been with us for awhile, you’ll also know that in-house reviews aren’t something we actually do very often.
The reason is simple: we’re only interested in devices or products that offer something useful or unique to this community. As such, the vast majority of these offers get ignored. I’ll give you an example. For whatever reason, multiple companies have been trying desperately to send me electric bikes with five-figure price tags this year. But since there’s no obvious way to turn that into useful content for the readers of Hackaday, I’m still stuck pedaling myself around like it’s the 1900s. I kid of course…I haven’t dared to get on a bike in a decade.
So I don’t mind telling you that, when InfiRay contacted me about reviewing their P2 Pro thermal camera, the email very nearly went into the trash. We’ve seen these kind of phone-based thermal cameras before, and it seemed to be more of the same. But after taking a close look at the specs, accessories, and claims laid out in the marketing material, I thought this one might be worth checking out first-hand.
We keep thinking about buying a better thermal camera, as there are plenty of advantages. While [VoltLog’s] review of the Topdon TC002 was interesting though, it has a connector for an iPhone. Even if you aren’t on Android, there is a rumor that Apple may (or may be forced to) change connectors which will make it more difficult to connect. Of course, there will be adapters, and you can get a USB C version of the same camera.
Technically, the camera is pretty typical of other recent cameras in this price range, and they probably all use the same image sensor. The camera provides 256×192 images.
Thermal cameras are great if you want to get an idea of what’s hot and what’s not. If you want to use a thermal camera for certain machine vision tasks, though, you generally need to do a geometric calibration to understand what the camera is seeing and correct for lens distortion. [Henry Zhang] has shared various methods of doing just that.
To calibrate a thermal camera, first you need a thermal pattern. This is like typical test image for a camera or screen, but with temperatures instead of colors. [Henry] explains several methods for doing this. One involves using a grid of nichrome wires to create a thermal pattern for calibration purposes. Another uses discs of cold aluminium inserted into a foam board. Even a simple checkerboard can work, with the black spaces heating up more from ambient sunlight than their neighbouring white spots. [Henry] then explains the mathematical techniques used for calibrating based on these patterns.
Hedges aren’t just a pretty garden decoration. They’re also a major habitat for many species of insects, birds, and other wildlife. In some areas, a lot of hedge trimming goes during the time that local birds are raising their fledglings, which causes harm at a crucial time. Thus, [Johann Elias Stoetzer] and fellow students were inspired to create Hedge Watcher.
The concept is simple – using thermal vision to spot birds inside a hedge when they may not otherwise be easily visible. Many species blend in with their surroundings in a visual manner, so thermal imaging is a great way to get around this. It can help to avoid destroying nests or otherwise harming birds when trimming back hedges. The idea was sourced from large-scale agricultural operations, which regularly use thermal cameras mounted on drones to look for wildlife before harvesting a field.
However, staring at a thermal camera readout every few seconds while trimming hedges isn’t exactly practical. Instead, the students created an augmented reality (AR) monocular to allow the user to trim hedges at the same time as keeping an eye on the thermal camera feed. Further work involved testing a binocular AR headset, as well as a VR headset. The AR setups proved most useful as they allowed for better situational awareness while working.
It’s a creative solution to protecting the local birdlife, and is to be applauded. There’s plenty of hubris around potential uses for augmented reality, but this is a great example of a real and practical one. And, if you’re keen to experiment with AR yourself, note that it doesn’t have to break the bank either!
In our ceaseless quest to bring you the best from the cheaper end of the global electronics markets, there are sometimes gadgets that we keep an eye on for a while because when they appear they’re just a little bit too pricey to consider cheap.
Today’s subject is just such a device, it’s a minimalist infra-red camera using the 8 pixel by 8 pixel Panasonic AMG8833 thermal sensor. This part has been around for a while, but even though any camera using it has orders of magnitude less performance than more accomplished models it has remained a little too expensive for a casual purchase. Indeed, these mini cameras were somewhere above £50 ($70) when they first came to our attention, but have now dropped to the point at which they can be found for somewhere over £30 ($42). Thirty quid is cheap enough for a punt on a thermal camera, so off went the order to China and the expected grey parcel duly arrived.
It’s a little unit, 40 mm x 35 mm x 18 mm, constructed of two laser-cut pieces of black plastic held together by brass stand-offs that hold a PCB between them, and on the front is a cut-out for the sensor while on the rear is one for the 35mm OLED display.At the side on the PCB is a micro USB socket which serves only as a power supply. It’s fair to say that this is a tiny unit.
Applying power from a USB battery bank, the screen comes up with a square colour thermal picture and a colour to temperature calibration stripe to its left. The colours adapt to the range of temperatures visible to the sensor, and there is a crosshair in the centre of the picture for which the temperature in Celsius is displayed below the picture. It’s a very straightforward and intuitive interface that requires no instruction, which is handy because the device has none. Continue reading “Review: Mini AMG8833 Thermal Camera”→