Thermal imaging has been a long-time dream for me, and I guess for many other as well. However, even the most simple TI cameras tend to be too expensive to justify if you want then just for private use.
It seems like their might be a way out of that now...
A Company called Melexis has released a cheap and low-resolution Thermopile Array (Melexis MLX 90620), that could be the ideal base for an extremely basic Thermal Camera. It's 16x4 Pixel Sensor won't win any prizes for building inspection or detailed thermal analysis, but it is cheap (if you buy a single unit it's around 60$ from Digikey or Futureelectronics, should be in stock this week at Futureelectronics according to Melexis) and comes complete with built-in signal amp, RAM, EEPROM and digital I2C output.
I came across this idea through the Kickstarter Project "Sensordrone" that gives you an easy way to hook up Sensors to your Smartphone via Bluetooth. They are planning to build this TI Sensor as an addon Module to their Sensordrone, but they need somebody to help build the app that turns the raw data coming from the sensor into colourful pixels...
Connecting the Thermopile Array to the Sensordrone is as easy as connecting the 4 pins to the Addon Connector pins. Adding a simple Silicon Diode to reduce the power from 3.3v down to the recommended 2.6v is the only additional step.
You could also hook the Thermopile Array up to a standard Arduino or the Android ADK board I guess if you don't want to go for the Sensordrone.
So it all comes down to Software, and this is where I hope somebody in this fantastic community might help. If you would like to see this happen and (unlike me) have the required coding skills, just go ahead, contact the Sensorcon Team (developers of the Sensordrone) or build your own ADK kit with Thermal Imaging.
TecSpecs for the Melexis MLX90620 can be found on their website together with a demo video. The Sensordrone can be found on Kickstarter (just enter the name) and specs for their unit are available there or on the Sensorcon forums.
I hope somebody takes this up and makes my (and I hope many others') long time dream real! Once the cheap and low-res version works, going for the more high-resolution Heimann Thermopile arrays with 32x31 and 64x62 might be the next step to an affordable Smartphone Thermocam.