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A lot of today’s mainstream technology got its start as fancy research or scientific technology. Some of it even got its start in military use, such as thermal cameras, which are very effective at helping you see things that standard cameras can’t detect.

While thermal cameras tend to be priced outside the average consumer’s budget, usually at a few thousand dollars, Santa Barbara, Calif.-based company Seek Thermal is launching one today for for iOS and Android devices today priced at a consumer-friendly $199. The camera attachment is now available for purchase through Seek’s website as well as Amazon.

Unlike normal cameras which use light to form images, thermal cameras have special lenses and sensors that capture heat and construct images based on the variations they pick up on. The company expects the camera to be used mostly for safety and security (it can help you spot someone hiding), home improvement (it can help you detect energy leaks), boating (it can help you spot floating debris in the dark), and for finding animals and pets in the dark. However, chief executive Robert Acker is looking forward to seeing what new uses customers discover, he told VentureBeat in an interview.

The company plans to focus on producing its consumer-grade camera and eventually license out its technology to specialized hardware companies looking to make thermal cameras and tools for specific purposes, Acker said.

Seek Thermal was founded by Bill Parrish and Tim Fitzgibbons and has raised $30 million in funding from unnamed private equity and institutional investors.


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