It would be a tactical advantage if a solider could easily target enemy forces - even if they are hiding behind obstacles in darkness. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has accomplished that feat for U.S. forces, miniaturizing infrared imaging from unwieldy vehicle based systems into handheld devices.
Wired wrote on DARPA's announcement today and emphasized how government scientists were able to shrink the cameras without sacrificing image quality. Existing attempts at making the technology more portable are expensive and only work at low resolutions, so broad distribution to soldiers was impractical, the report noted.
While there is no explanation about how the technology works, a DARPA program description notes that it can also be used to advance operational safety in situations such as when helicopters lack ground visibility during landings or search and rescue missions. They would become a replacement for gun-mounted imaging as well.
Other military technologies such as GPS have eventually entered the public domain. Some more examples of commercialization are the Boeing 747, the Internet, lasers, robotics, and wireless radio technologies that have made cell phones possible.
Could better infrared sensors have practical consumer or law enforcement applications? More significant might be its ability to produce sharper images by reducing pixel size versus pixel count which could eventually lead to overall better cameras - meaning that the zoomed in pictures taken on your smart phone could be as crisp as a standard picture.
(image credit: DARPA)