Miro stops time, lets you look around
Vision Research—maker of crazy-fast high-speed cameras—stopped by the Pop Sci offices recently with their first handheld model, the Miro.
The company has been providing high-end, bulky gear for customers like NASA, the NFL, and big-budget Hollywood directors. To see what happens when pieces of foam insulation hit the Space Shuttle, for example, NASA used Vision cameras that can take up to 500,000 photos per second. (Vision is already working on one-million-shots-per-second models.)
The Miro isn’t quite that fast. It shoots 1,000 frames per second at its maximum resolution of 800 by 600 pixels, at about 2,000 fps at 640 by 480—the resolution of standard definition TV, and at over 7,000 fps at 320 by 240—YouTube resolution.
Now, I was mightily impressed with a mere 300 fps from Casio’s possible upcoming model, but at a thousand or two thousand shots, you start seeing things that you never even knew existed. Take the simple act of flicking a lighter. In the following video, you see it first at regular speed (don't blink, or you'll miss it), and then at 7,155 frames per second – showing each spark flying off the flint and the slow, complex birth of the flame.
Unlike the Casio camera, though, Miro isn’t for your average consumer. The model used for the lighter video runs about $25,000. It’s meant for customers like factory owners who need to figure out why a machine isn’t running properly. With video from the Miro, they can watch it in slow-mo to spot the problem. Having an assembly line go down for even a few hours costs a fortune, so buying a camera that costs as much as a car is a modest expense if it solves the problem.
Don’t expect to find a Vision Research camera for $199 at Best Buy this holiday season, or next. But all technology eventually trickles down. So get ready for slow-mo instant replay of your neighborhood touch football games.—Sean Captain