Seek Thermal - Hardware, Setup and Usage Impressions

The Seek Thermal camera comes in a nicely packaged box which includes a compact storage case. The gallery below shows the packaging and the camera housing. The housing is made of magnesium and the lens has a 36 degree field of view. The camera is quite lightweight at 0.5 ounces. In terms of dimensions, the unit has a length of 2.75", depth of 0.84" and height of 0.84".

The Android version of the camera works on any Android device with a micro-USB port supporting USB OTG (On-the-Go) where the USB port can be in the host mode. Unfortunately, Android phones don't have a standard orientation or placement for the microUSB port. On the HTC One M7 and M8, for instance, the thermal camera tags on to the phone facing the same side as the screen. With the LG G2 and Samsung Galaxy phones as well as the Dell Venue 8 7000 series tablet, there were no issues in getting the orientation of the camera right.

The Seek Thermal Android app has gone through multiple feature updates and bug fixes over the last few months. In the initial days, the app would consistently crash, but it has recently been rock-solid on the multiple devices that I have tested it with (LG G2, HTC One M7, HTC One M8, Samsung Galaxy S4 and the Dell Venue 8 7000).

The gallery below shows some screenshots of the app in action on a LG G2 back in November. Note that we have emissivity control - i.e, the software is aware of the efficiency with which infrared energy is radiated depending on the material. This helps in determining the correct temperature of the material. The reference 'black body' has an emissivity of 1. The Seek Thermal camera has a shutter that passes in front of the lens periodically for recalibration based on the surrounding temperature. This makes a clicking sound which is frequent during the initial usage. After warm-up, calibration frequency is reduced.

In any case, this emissivity control seems to be missing in the latest screenshots taken while the app was running on a Dell Venue 8 7000 tablet.

The various interesting aspects of the app are evident in the screenshots above. It is possible to take still images as well as videos. In the latter case, 16:9 settings provides us with 720p video at 13 fps, while 4:3 gives us a 832 x 624 video at 14 fps. However, the real frame rate is less than 9 fps due to export restrictions on VO-based microbolometers. The photo / video can be in different thermography modes - normal (regular thermal images), spot (average temperature around the center spot), high / low (highest and lowest temperatures in the focus area) and threshold (different color for temperatures above/equal to/below a particular temperature).

Seek Thermal's target market includes a host of applications:

  • safety and security (scanning areas at night before venturing out)
  • home improvement (heating / insulation evaluation, water damage tracing, clogs tracing)
  • pet maintenance
  • cooking
  • boating and other outdoor activities

PC builders and DIY enthusiasts are not in the list provided by Seek Thermal. However, regular readers of our passively cooled PC reviews must have seen seen photographs from the Seek Thermal camera in the thermal performance evaluation section. The camera provides an affordable way to monitor the temperature of the chassis in order to ensure that things are not overheating and creating a hazard.

Introduction to Thermal Imaging Sample Thermal Images
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  • icrf - Friday, May 29, 2015 - link

    Now that G+ Photos has exited G+, it's easier to share links to videos. Here's the one of the water boiling: https://goo.gl/photos/5rQx7kqJSDvzcWRGA Reply
  • ganeshts - Saturday, May 2, 2015 - link

    One of our fellow readers has provided a nice set of images. I have also added a page prior to the concluding section with some sample images. Reply
  • slashbinslashbash - Friday, May 1, 2015 - link

    Having experienced crashing my car into a moose on a dark Colorado highway, I am extremely interested in this technology as some kind of early warning system for night driving in areas where there are likely to be deer or other large animals. I would love to see some samples of the output for far-away warm objects such as humans or other animals. Reply
  • Daniel Egger - Saturday, May 2, 2015 - link

    You'd have to mount it outside of the car though as even the reflectivity of regular glass completely throws off the sensor, let alone car windshields and windows which usually usually coated with vaporized metal specifically to block IR and UV. Reply
  • DanNeely - Friday, May 1, 2015 - link

    How are they getting a 720p video out of a 206x156 sensor? Unless they're able to jiggle the sensor back and forth a fraction of a pixel to interpolate a higher resolution, wouldn't 720p offer nothing except resizing artifacts over a lower resolution version? Reply
  • ganeshts - Friday, May 1, 2015 - link

    It is upsampling with some tricks, as explained in this paper: http://www.sersc.org/journals/IJSH/vol8_no1_2014/5...

    In higher-end thermal imagers, the optical image sensor output is also used along with the thermal sensor's output to do a better job of the upsampling.
    Reply
  • nathanddrews - Friday, May 1, 2015 - link

    Save some money:
    http://amzn.com/B00CVHIJDK
    Reply
  • ganeshts - Friday, May 1, 2015 - link

    No doubts about that for certain applications, but for a majority of the use cases (checking for moving animals in the dark, finding the hotspots in a PC quickly, tracing clogs in plumbing etc.), the IR thermometers just won't cut it :) Trust me, I have used both - for different purposes :) Reply
  • carlwu - Friday, May 1, 2015 - link

    I have this device. Around doors and windows, you can plainly see where there is heat loss in the winter time. Some areas you can address, others you can't. Reply
  • SilthDraeth - Friday, May 1, 2015 - link

    I love how the guy in the comments has taken more useful pictures than the reviewer. Sure, taking the pictures the reviewer took contains data. But for god sake, take pictures of animals at night. Etc. For instance, I was contemplating this device, I was curious if on a pitch dark night, if I could see a coyote at 300 feet away in the darkness based on his heat signature. Obviously, coyotes aren't going to play nice, but, if a person would show up on an empty field at 300 feet it would be enough information for me to go off of. Reply

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