Next time you're at a haunted house or graveyard, you'll be able to spot any supernatural beings with your own thermal-imaging camera. Flir, which stands for forward-looking infrared, is a camera case for your iPhone 5 or 5s that shows the heat signatures of your surroundings. The $349 case packs a 1,400 mAh battery that can be partitioned to charge your phone when necessary and will be available in Spring 2014. We tried out Flir to see if it's hot enough for your pants pocket.
The first thing we noticed about the iPhone 5 with Flir on it was how warm it felt. We're not sure if this is because the case just runs hot or if the app is taxing on your phone. The black soft-touch case was also slightly bulky for a shell, but it's definitely more portable than an external thermal camera. On its back, the case sports a visual camera and a thermal one as well as a toggle for temperature calibration that needs to be activated from time to time for accurate numbers.
Of the many potential uses for Flir, the one you're probably going to use most often is to quickly check your body temperature to see if you're running a fever. While Flir won't be able to read your internal body temperature, it can be pointed at specific points on your body and deliver a reading to one decimal place. After calibrating the camera, we pointed the phone at a product rep's tear duct (recommended for a slightly more accurate reading) and the number on the screen showed he was a healthy 96.2 degrees Fahrenheit.
Flir's app interface is basically a viewfinder that shows you the heat signatures of everything you see in real time, and when calibrated for temperatures, a crosshair shows up with a degree reading beside it. The visual camera adds more detail to your thermal image.
We liked being able to see our rep's eye as we searched for his tear duct through the viewfinder, since the region was the same color. You can take a picture or video to store on your phone and swipe from side to side to pull up different color profiles a la Instagram filters. We liked the "Rainbow" color mode since its different color--like green and blue for cooler zones and yellow and red for hotter areas--made it easier to differentiate zones.
Tapping Settings next to the shutter button also brings up options for temperature reading and charging your device to add up to 40 percent extra juice in an emergency. The camera itself requires power, so the charging feature will only use half of the case's onboard 1,400 mAh battery.
We can see Flir being used by people who love camping and being able to scan your perimeter from inside your tent, as well as electricians or people looking to fix insulation problems in their homes. You can also use Flir as a night vision tool or to find abnormally cold or hot spots that suggest supernatural activity. While $349 may be steep for the masses, people who can use it for their jobs may find it a worthy investment. Flir plans to launch cases for other popular smartphone models soon, so Samsung and LG phone owners won't be left out for long.