Author Topic: Mµ Thermal Imager - real or fake?  (Read 254928 times)

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Offline Recyclojunk64

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Mµ Thermal Imager - real or fake?
« on: March 13, 2013, 10:28:16 PM »
G'day

This is actually my first post. I signed up to find out what the EEVBlog community thinks of the Mu Thermal Imager. I'm looking for some advice on whether or not it's legitimate or a scam. It is on a crowd funding website (Indiegogo).

It's a thermal imaging camera that attaches to a smartphone (for processing and video display). Wavelength is 7 to 14 µm, at 190x120 resolution. The main plus is the price-point, it will retain for $300 eventually. However, the guy behind it (John McGrath) selling them (without a profit) for $150 as a promotional move on Indiegogo. Apparently his team is behind some NDAs preventing him from showing the actual prototype, so there's not much more than a few videos and rendered images.

Anyway, here's a link to it
[url=http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/mu-thermal-camera-a-great-health-diagnostic-tool?c=home]http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/mu-thermal-camera-a-great-health-diagnostic-tool?c=home

It was also covered on Hackaday:
http://hackaday.com/2013/03/06/a-real-thermal-imaging-camera-for-300/

There is also a somewhat incomplete website for it:
http://www.muoptics.com/

So what's your opinion? Is this a great deal or is he going to run off with the money. Probably not considering the house he's in in one of the vids looks to be way more than just 200 000 (his goal on Indiegogo).
I know most thermal imaging sensors at that resolution probably cost upwards of $300, so how's he able to get that and the optics, and every thing else into it for $150? Would you risk it for such a cheap thermal camera?

~Josh
« Last Edit: March 14, 2013, 03:16:15 AM by Recyclojunk64 »
 

Offline ZOMGVTEK

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Re: Mµ Thermal Imager - real or fake?
« Reply #1 on: March 14, 2013, 12:37:50 AM »
It does indeed appear to be a very impressive package for the money. I'm still a bit curious how they intend to interface it to both Android and iOS handsets, and what kind of compatibility it will have.

How does Indiegogo work? Do you only get charged after the project is funded, or is it right away and you hope it shows up?
 

Offline Recyclojunk64

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Re: Mµ Thermal Imager - real or fake?
« Reply #2 on: March 14, 2013, 01:05:30 AM »
Quote
Do you only get charged after the project is funded, or is it right away and you hope it shows up?

It's set up as flexible funding, which means that all the money donated goes to the creator once the time is up (even if the goal isn't met, but I'm sure it will be though). I'm guessing that's when you're charged for it too. But yeah, you still do have to hope it shows up and he doesn't just take the funds and keeps them for himself.

~Josh
 

Offline mvdswaluw

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Re: Mµ Thermal Imager - real or fake?
« Reply #3 on: March 14, 2013, 02:18:36 AM »
Someone already proved it could be done for a low price and without special optics.
http://rh-workshop-llc.myshopify.com/products/ir-blue

This Mu Thermal Camera uses a higher resolution chip, and does have some optics so it will cost a bit more.
With that in the back of my mind I've singed up for a "Not So Early Adopters Special".
 

Offline ZOMGVTEK

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Re: Mµ Thermal Imager - real or fake?
« Reply #4 on: March 14, 2013, 02:38:11 AM »
The IR-Blue is 64 zone, compared to 19,200. Thats a BIG difference.

Also isn't the IR Blue a 'kit' at that price?
 

Offline Corporate666

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Re: Mµ Thermal Imager - real or fake?
« Reply #5 on: March 14, 2013, 06:05:08 AM »
The problem with these projects is that making "stuff" is really expensive. You have parts cost, manufacturing costs, advertising, travel, trade shows, overhead (insurance, utilities, etc). not to mention paying the people who are working on the project.

Most people who do not run a business in the industry in question do not understand all these costs... so they see a commercial product that sells for $100 and they think "hell, I can make that for $50!  Then I can sell mine for $90 and make a ton of money!".  But they don't know that the $100 product is sold by the manufacturer for $40, and the parts cost must be $10, and the manufacturer isn't making a lot of money even at those prices.

Then the person with the idea starts a crowdsourced project, gets a lot of money... but because they do not have the experience or connections, they can't get the costs down like the big manufacturer can, and before they know it, they've blown half their money on traveling to various manufacturers trying to put the project together - and they don't even have enough left to cover the production run, even if they did it at cost. 

That is the big risk of these projects.  I don't think it's really scammers trying to swindle people, but rather doe-eyed inexperienced neophytes who just do not have the knowledge or information they need to embark on such projects in a successful manner. 

Having said that, I know nothing about this project creator, nor do I know a lot about IR cameras.  I own one (a FLIR i7) that was really expensive to buy... and I really like the technology and I know how it works.  And what makes me nervous is that this guys claim that the expensive stuff is the processing and such, is totally untrue in my opinion.  The expensive stuff is the optics and sensor.  He is claiming to be able to make a camera for $150 that has the same resolution of a $2,0000 FLIR.  That is over 90% cheaper.  And considering FLIR is a huge company that has economies of scale (and purchasing power) this guy can't even dream of, it really makes me suspicious.

On top of the erroneous claim that the stuff in the phone are the expensive parts, I would personally not invest. 
It's not always the most popular person who gets the job done.
 

Offline mvdswaluw

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Re: Mµ Thermal Imager - real or fake?
« Reply #6 on: March 14, 2013, 07:06:03 AM »
True,

Investing in this is a risk. Might as well be a Indiegogo april fools joke they have set up to get publicity.

After some google-digging I've found this sensor: Mikrosens MS16070a. As well as a youtube movie of a movie shot with that sensor outdoors. The specs of the sensor match up with the specs of the Mµ Thermal Imager (notice rounding on the spectral bands so that the spectral range looks a bit bigger, all marketing). Can't seem to find the price of this sensor though. The resolution, grainy image and ghosting effect does seem the same as the example movies on the Indiegogo-site.

And for this price I would expect nothing fancy. So, no calibration, lots of noise, ghosting in movies, slow response and software with almost no functions. But usefull enough for me to detect cold spots in my house or hot spots in my electronics.
« Last Edit: March 14, 2013, 07:24:41 AM by mvdswaluw »
 

Offline Recyclojunk64

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Re: Mµ Thermal Imager - real or fake?
« Reply #7 on: March 16, 2013, 03:54:38 AM »
Thanks for the insight Corporate666. I'll probably just keep an eye on the campaign and unless I see some rock solid evidence that he's actually managed to source enough parts to build it (and it's beyond the prototyping stage) then I'll probably leave it.  Yeah, his claim that the LCD and processor are the most expensive parts give the impression he doesn't quite know what he's talking about.

He reckons he'll be able to get the project done regardless of how much it costs to do it:

Quote
We have various venture capital options open to us to fund the project through to completion.  The financing people are hard on our behinds to get this product in the market.  The idea for the IndieGoGo campaign came to us from one of our financial advisors; suggested as a means to retain a greater share of equity in our company during the earlier days of design and prototyping. So...regardless of meeting our goal here or not, the Mµ Optics Thermal Imager is coming to market and all the early adopters and IndieGoGo supporters will definitely see their purchases delivered.

Not that he necessarily will though of course. I was kind of under the impression that he probably is in some way legitimate , but then this update/comment showed up this morning. It was in reply to another person questioning the legitimacy of the project (the comment is now removed):

Quote

The following is the email I sent to the original poster of the link to the hackaday site. I took down his comment only after receiving his permission to do so.

Hello,

I’m responding to you through email because of IndieGoGo’s 500 word limitations.

I’m aware of Hackaday’s discourse concerning our camera accessory. I have a healthy respect for spirited discourse but can only defend myself and our company within the limitations of a competitive marketplace. We’re not building a one-off here, we’re attempting to build a company and that requires a certain amount of corporate discretion as we attempt to bring a product to the mass market.

Every industry experiences a tipping point in which, what was beyond the financial reach of the average person became affordable; either through technical advances, or the economics of supply and demand. I can say that our approach to this business is based on both realities.

I don’t think there can be any doubt that there exists a tremendous mass market for quality thermal imaging cameras. I believe we have the plan to address that market. I cannot, and will not, for the sake of discourse with knowledgable and intelligent technophiles whom have my respect, lift my skirt, show my hand, or simply share beyond what I should until it’s right for our company. I hope you can understand that.

The world is full of doubters, all I can do is work hard and make sure our product comes to market. I know that I have certain obligations to the IndieGoGo community to share information, but I also believe that they want us to be successful as a going concern. I have every intent upon sharing what I can at the appropriate time. It’s a very competitive world out there; I want to give my company every chance to succeed and sharing too much information just helps my competitors.

I know I leave you without specifics, but I hope my reply gives you some comfort that we’re in this to win. I’m leaving your comment up, though if you gave me permission, I’d take it down as it directs people to a place that can be a bit wild at times.

With respects,
John McGrath

It probably would have been better for him to not post that comment; no evidence, just words. It only made me more doubtful about it. Now other commenters are questioning the existence of a prototype and even his four-person team. In fact, everything up on the Indigogo campaign site probably could have been made by someone in a single afternoon with a commercial thermal camera, an image-manipulation program, and a nice clean house.

Anyway, there's still over two weeks left to go. I guess I'll just have to keep a close eye on it to see if any evidence actually shows up.

~Josh
 

Offline Recyclojunk64

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Re: Mµ Thermal Imager - real or fake?
« Reply #8 on: April 01, 2013, 04:42:55 AM »
Well, the campaign is over (actually over 6 hours ago). I was waiting to the very last minute for some more evidence to appear but it never came. I also wasn't sure about how to pay for postage, so I didn't end up purchasing a perk.

Actually they did post a video a while back interviewing some people behind the project but it didn't reveal much information at all.

As mvdswaluw mentioned, it does appear as if it could be an april fools day joke. Not an unlikely scenario. There's hardly any comments been posted since it ended. I guess we'll have to wait until tomorrow to find out.

~Josh
 

Offline vk6zgo

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Re: Mµ Thermal Imager - real or fake?
« Reply #9 on: April 01, 2013, 01:46:34 PM »
"Doubters" & "Naysayers" get a bad press,but they are right more often than they are wrong!

The occasional visionaries who make some real breakthrough are only the exceptions that prove the rule! ;D
 

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Re: Mµ Thermal Imager - real or fake?
« Reply #10 on: April 01, 2013, 02:41:10 PM »
They ditched the optics?
I thought the optics was the key to any decent thermal imaging camera?  :-//
I have no idea how much the sensor costs, but it's possible they might be able to meet this price point without any optics and large volume. But how well will it perform  :-//
There is no real prototype shown working.
They mention they have to convince the major stores to carry the item, so that instantly raises the question if they are pricing the unit based on some huge volume they hope to achieve? i.e. they got a 10K piece sensor quote, or even higher pie-in-the-sky number.
With only 1877 units pre-sold in the campaign, that's not a huger number by any stretch. I doubt they'll meet the price point with that volume.
These aren't scams, but could be a classic case of not having any real experience with manufacturing costs. Time will tell.
Delivery in May? - that's bullshit.
 

Online EEVblog

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Re: Mµ Thermal Imager - real or fake?
« Reply #11 on: April 01, 2013, 02:47:25 PM »
Wait, they say in the video they have dropped the expensive optics, but in the text say they have "some amazing optics." WTF?  :-//
And the funds will be used for (among other things) "the hiring of a worldwide sales consultancy to sell Mµ Thermal Imager’s through to the hardware stores"
I don't see how they can do this with the volume and the money they have raised.
I'm getting the vibe that this one looks doomed to fail...
 

Online Marco

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Re: Mµ Thermal Imager - real or fake?
« Reply #12 on: April 01, 2013, 03:30:09 PM »
About the optics, the initial patents on molded chalcogenide glass optics have run out ... so those at least will probably be getting a lot cheaper over the coming years.

I wonder though if for these low resolutions simple plastic fresnel lenses wouldn't suffice.
« Last Edit: April 01, 2013, 03:33:20 PM by Marco »
 

Offline Phroon

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Re: Mµ Thermal Imager - real or fake?
« Reply #13 on: April 01, 2013, 07:23:24 PM »
Wait, they say in the video they have dropped the expensive optics, but in the text say they have "some amazing optics." WTF?  :-//

Didn't you watch the video?  They've offloaded it to the Cell Phone.

That's right folks, they claim to do IR optics will a Cell Phone camera. |O

Maybe the CEO thinks they are up converting to optical frequency.  But to do that you'd still need some kind of IR optics in front and mad science thermal IR:Visible magic physics package.  But then how does it do the overlay? :-BROKE

My bet:  It's not exactly a scam but the CEO thinks his plan is a lot smarter than it actually is.  The product might exist five+ years from now but will barely work under ideal controlled conditions.
 

Offline tom66

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Re: Mµ Thermal Imager - real or fake?
« Reply #14 on: April 01, 2013, 07:51:10 PM »
Didn't they mention 1.5ft ~ infinity focus? Optics only necessary at distances less than 1.5ft. Which makes it harder to use for electronics, but still useful.
 

Online EEVblog

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Re: Mµ Thermal Imager - real or fake?
« Reply #15 on: April 01, 2013, 08:47:39 PM »
My bet:  It's not exactly a scam but the CEO thinks his plan is a lot smarter than it actually is.  The product might exist five+ years from now but will barely work under ideal controlled conditions.

Hence why they won't show any proto (and likely why they are using IndiGoGo instead of Kickstarter which require this).
It seems they are signed up display their wares at some trade show in May. I'd be surprised if they have anything to show at all.
 

Offline mikeselectricstuff

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Re: Mµ Thermal Imager - real or fake?
« Reply #16 on: April 01, 2013, 09:52:50 PM »
Quote
And the funds will be used for (among other things) "the hiring of a worldwide sales consultancy to sell Mµ Thermal Imager’s through to the hardware stores"
This was the thing that made me more suspicious than anything else.
Why would anyone making a product that hugely undercuts the competition want to slash their profitability by having to cover the large margin of a retailer?

If the product is that revolutionary it will sell perfectly well online. Trying to push it to retail (at least initially) would be total insanity.

My bet:  It's not exactly a scam but the CEO thinks his plan is a lot smarter than it actually is.  The product might exist five+ years from now but will barely work under ideal controlled conditions.

Hence why they won't show any proto (and likely why they are using IndiGoGo instead of Kickstarter which require this).
It seems they are signed up display their wares at some trade show in May. I'd be surprised if they have anything to show at all.

They could very easily show something, based on conventional expensive parts. My guess is they will show _something_ to "certain selected clients".

There is a company  (linked above somewhere) claiming to have plastic fresnel optics that work at the resolutions claimed, and it's maybe plausible they could have a cheap detector - I don't know enough about the tech, however my understanding is the detector needs to be fairly big (in silicon terms) to get the sensitivity, which is never cheap, unless they are using something very novel like a plastic substrate.
Every aspect of everything they have put out is so vague it just stinks of "nothing to see here" with no evidence whatsoever that they have anything real. The video makes me more, not less suspicious. If it is real they could EASILY show something believable. They haven't, so we can only draw one conclusion.
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Offline MacAttak

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Re: Mµ Thermal Imager - real or fake?
« Reply #17 on: April 02, 2013, 02:23:50 AM »
I agree, I think probability of success is extremely low on this one, but I would really like to have a thermal camera for personal use and IF the thing works, then I want to be able to see how they did it. At this price point, they must be using some novel kind of optics solution - the device package mock-up they have shown just can't fit that much hardware.

I'm signed up for one, so I'm hoping they succeed. Once I get it (IF I get it), then I'll give it a good run-through and follow up here with pics / teardown / etc.
 

Offline tom66

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Re: Mµ Thermal Imager - real or fake?
« Reply #18 on: April 02, 2013, 03:27:03 AM »
I'm guessing at least part of the cost saving must come from offloading the intensive DSP operations onto the phone/tablet/laptop etc CPU, so there only really needs to be a basic USB bridge inside the unit for interfacing with the camera.
 

Online Marco

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Re: Mµ Thermal Imager - real or fake?
« Reply #19 on: April 02, 2013, 04:11:28 AM »
There is a company  (linked above somewhere) claiming to have plastic fresnel optics
I can't find the link, but Melexis who makes the IR Blue sensor has this in their FAQ :

"Q:
Do you know suppliers of such PolyEthylene lenses, and may you post it here?

A:
I know suppliers like Kube Electronics in Switzerland http://www.kube.ch/optics/index.php and Fresneltech in the US http://www.fresneltech.com/materials.html"

Of course in the same FAQ they said they never had success with fresnel lenses.
 

Offline mikeselectricstuff

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Re: Mµ Thermal Imager - real or fake?
« Reply #20 on: April 02, 2013, 04:47:42 AM »
There is a company  (linked above somewhere) claiming to have plastic fresnel optics
I can't find the link, but Melexis who makes the IR Blue sensor has this in their FAQ :

"Q:
Do you know suppliers of such PolyEthylene lenses, and may you post it here?

A:
I know suppliers like Kube Electronics in Switzerland http://www.kube.ch/optics/index.php and Fresneltech in the US http://www.fresneltech.com/materials.html"

Of course in the same FAQ they said they never had success with fresnel lenses.

This one : http://www.fresneltech.com/thermalimaging.html
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Offline Keef Wivanef

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Re: Mµ Thermal Imager - real or fake?
« Reply #21 on: April 15, 2013, 08:27:47 PM »
If this is not a scam then I will smear my hat with dog poo and eat it live on youtube!
The campaign is almost an exact copy of the kickstarter ir blue.
All they have to show is some pretty videos BUT the CEO's background is in video production so that you would expect that.
The main expense is in the sensor and optics, claims that the cost can be slashed by using an Iphone to process the signals are pure bullplop.
Have a look at the latest "things are coming along nicely" video.
Their "laboratory" is in the lounge room.
The lads can hardly stop themselves from giggling at how amazingly successful their scam has been.
"just trying to save our small blue planet"
BOLLOCKS! Take your camera and shove it up yer bum.
(Oh, sorry, I forgot......they don't have a freaking camera...just an artists impression)

 :-DD
 

Offline mikeselectricstuff

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Re: Mµ Thermal Imager - real or fake?
« Reply #22 on: April 15, 2013, 09:51:22 PM »
They do mention on the original page that they can only ship to certain countries.
ISTR reading somewhere that cameras below 9 FPS have less export control restrictions.
However I think this is a minor issue compared to whether they  have any chance of, or intention to deliver a real product.



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Offline mikeselectricstuff

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Re: Mµ Thermal Imager - real or fake?
« Reply #23 on: April 15, 2013, 10:21:12 PM »
Fair point on 9FPS. That is why the likes of the Fluke TICs have become so much more widespread these days. The death grip of the US DoD has been loosened slightly, but only slightly. Try exporting to perceived 'unfriendly' countries and you end up in a US court explaining yourself  :o.  In the Mu text blog the rep states that they are including Wi-Fi as opposed to Bluetooth as the Bluetooth couldn't cope with 30FPS.

To quote Charles McGrath:

"We agree, Bluetooth would be great, but at 19,200 pixels, coming in 30 times each second, we found that it just wouldn’t cut it in the vast majority of cases."

I may have misinterpreted what he meant though ? Maybe the unit will produce 30FPS using 9FPS of thermal image data ....a sort of 'padded' output  :-DD

Fraser
My guess is they planned on 30fps but haven't looked into the export issues in sufficient detail.
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Online EEVblog

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Re: Mµ Thermal Imager - real or fake?
« Reply #24 on: April 16, 2013, 12:09:14 AM »
Fair point on 9FPS. That is why the likes of the Fluke TICs have become so much more widespread these days. The death grip of the US DoD has been loosened slightly, but only slightly. Try exporting to perceived 'unfriendly' countries and you end up in a US court explaining yourself  :o.

Fluke offered a top of the line unit for review once, and even said I could drop test it etc.
But I could NOT under any circumstances open it. Not because I'd break it, but because Uncle Sam would not let me  ::)
 


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