Night vision goggles are multi-hundred or -thousand-dollar gadgets that are the purview of spies, commandos, and wealthy hobbyists, right? Maybe not. Jakks Pacific has introduced a night vision product retailing for just $80.
So how do they work? The secret is that the human eye can’t perceive infrared light, but some cameras can. Night vision goggles typically consist of a camera feeding to a viewfinder, with an IR spotlight illuminating the area. If you don’t have your own goggles, all you see is darkness.
Jakks claims that the EyeClops Night Vision are the only true night vision goggles in toy form and I’m inclined to believe it. There are competing products but typically they’re just a head-mounted green light that looks cool in the dark. With the EyeClops goggles you’re getting the real deal.
Needless to say, the goggles were designed to present a delightfully Borg-like appearance, however, a lot of the look is cosmetic. Here’s how it’s set up. There are two eyepieces, one covered in LEDs and the other unadorned. Positioned over the forehead is a big central sphere I call a "bulb" which contains the camera and is surrounded by more LEDs. I’m not sure why this bulb had to be so prominent, maybe to stay with the cyclopean theme of the product line. The 5-AA battery pack ends up at the back of the head.
As mentioned, the goggles work by projecting IR light. There are two levels of brightness, the lower uses the LEDs on the right eyepiece, the higher uses the LEDs on the central bulb. Interestingly, the latter are so powerful that when emitting, you can see a dull red glow. (As I said, to the naked eye the IR LEDs don’t normally emit visible light, but digital cameras are able to sense the infrared light. That’s what you see in the photo.)
The camera feeds to a tiny (0.5"x0.75") LCD screen positioned in front of the right eye. Since there is only one screen you get only monocular vision, if it matters. The smallness of the screen doesn’t really hurt because it’s right in front of the eye. One concern I had was the feasibility of using the goggles with my big nerd glasses. It turned out to be a non-issue, as the miniature screen falls well within my close-in vision. However, someone relying on reading glasses may find themselves unable to see much of anything. As far as the left eyepiece, it is merely cosmetic, and flips up to allow the user to look through a hole.
You know how in the movies, people wearing night vision goggles are easily blinded by bright lights? Myth. You can see just as well in sunlit rooms as you do pitch darkness. Yes, it seems a little brighter, but not absurdly so. When the ninjas rappel through the windows with flash-bangs going off, you won’t be at a disadvantage.
One surprising function is a slider allowing the user to switch the viewscreen from the classic "green" coloration to grayscale, and back again. I’m not sue what the purpose of this might be… I suspect the camera natively uses grayscale, but has the green option because that style is so ingrained in our culture; maybe people would foolishly pooh pooh the night vision capabilities if it wasn’t the green they expected. (One cool aspect of this feature is the ability to ‘dial through the wavelengths’ they way the Predator does to catch sneaky humans.)
Night vision for kids. A less imaginative person might wonder why Junior needs night vision goggles, but we at the GeekDad blog don’t trouble ourselves with such foolish soul-searching. After-hours cookie raids. Midnight airsoft wars. Your imagination has the answer.