Despite the fact that technologies are developing so rapidly today and are replacing each other so quickly, there is a strong impression that smartphone manufacturers simply cannot keep up with them. After all, if you think about it, it seems that mobile gadgets have never been as boring as they are now. After all, relentlessly increasing camera resolution and lens counts is not the kind of innovation most users expect. But as it turns out, smartphone makers – at least a few – are simply working for the future.
Night vision is a mode not available to smartphones. Well, at least that's what we thought before
Since the end of last year, my main smartphone is Honor View 20. I would not call its functionality outstanding, but what else can I demand for 20 thousand rubles, for which I got it on a trade-in? The flagship processor of the previous generation, 6 GB of RAM, a 48 megapixel camera and a 4000 mAh battery. No wireless charging, no ultra-wide-angle lens, no advanced super-capabilities like modern flagships. Of the cool, perhaps the ToF-sensor, but what's the point of it, if you make it work so that it is noticeable, you still can't. But I was wrong.
What is a ToF sensor
This is how the ToF sensor sees
The ToF (Time of Flight) sensor is a special sensor, also called LIDAR, that generates an image based on the 'time of flight' data. The fact is that this sensor emits a beam of light, which is then reflected from objects in its path and returns back. The ToF sensor calculates the time it took for the light to travel this path, and turns this knowledge into three-dimensional models of what it sees. This technology is very promising, because it allows you to scan the space, to recognize faces with high accuracy, and, as it turned out, to take pictures in the dark.
Download night vision app at Android
Recently, an app called Night Vision / ToF Viewer was released on Google Play, which uses the same ToF sensor, turning it into a night vision camera. This idea lay literally on the surface, given that the ToF sensor does not care about light at all, since it emits it itself and thus forms the outlines of objects and calculates the degree of their distance. The developers of the studio Lubos Vonasek Programmierung simply directed this ability of the sensor in the right direction and taught compatible smartphones to see in the dark.
Night shooting at Android
On the left is a bathroom in complete darkness, on the right is an entrance door under a side source of natural light
It will not be difficult to understand the application, which means that the question of how to shoot in the dark on a smartphone, you obviously will not stand. The program does not have any functions or controls at all. Launching immediately opens a window with a viewfinder in front of you, which displays all objects that fall into the field of view of the camera. However, remember that only owners with ToF sensors will be able to use such a camera.
To be honest, the picture from the ToF sensor has nothing to do with the night vision cameras that we see in the movies about the military and spies. That is, you will not be able to see the smallest details of objects that are in sight. The maximum that awaits you is the outline and relief. Still, one should not forget that it is not a camera with a matrix that is involved here, but that a ToF sensor, which cannot see in another way. However, as you can see, the reader discerned not only the shower rack with a hose that was installed in my bathroom, but also the joints of the tiles laid out on the walls, and even the transition from wall to ceiling. And in the second photo, I captured the front door. The result was not so hot, because I failed to create complete darkness in the hallway.
Is it possible to use such a camera in practice? It seems to me that it is. Undoubtedly, you will not go to a special operation with her, but in a dark entrance where the hooligans broke a light bulb, you can navigate in this way quite successfully. The ToF sensor will see steps, doors, and even a homeless person sleeping on a flight of stairs, if you have any, of course. Well, seriously speaking, I am satisfied – after all, up to this point, the ToF-sensor in my smartphone was idle, and now it has found at least some application.