A robo-helmet with thermal imaging

Headgear that will scan a crowd to see who has a raised temperature

KC N901 Smart Helmet, $6,680
KC N901 Smart Helmet, $6,680

This helmet, from a Shenzhen manufacturer, looks terrifying but is extraordinary. Originally designed to provide security personnel with instant facial and numberplate recognition, it’s a smart augmented reality helmet with one facility that has suddenly become pertinent – it gives an audible and visible signal to the wearer when someone with a raised body temperature comes into range. Measuring via infrared thermal imaging, it can scan crowds or queues at a rate of up to 200 people a minute and pick out anyone whose temperature is above the norm.

I went out and about to put it through its paces: it’s certainly a fascinating activity for 2020. The helmet, with its pop-down augmented-reality screen over the right eye, is light and comfortable (although not really suitable for glasses wearers), and claims to be able to take temperature readings with 98 per cent accuracy at up to 2m away.

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It’s a sophisticated instrument and takes some getting used to. The harder I tried, glancing around and manoeuvring to sight people up, the less precise it was. If you just relax, stay still and let people walk into view, it gives a clear reading of each and every person’s temperature, flagged up blue for OK, red for not OK. However, I can’t guarantee that I was getting the correct reading from everyone: the one person who was warmer than ideal was self-broiling in the sunshine and already sunburned.  

Who would buy this? Obviously not a hobbyist – other than quite a peculiar one. But if I had a business that involved a lot of people streaming through it, or a building with a reception area, I would love an employee to be scanning people as they came in. If wearing it is a bit too RoboCop, you can also mount the helmet on a tripod and connect it to a phone or the smartwatch that comes with it. Stay safe.

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@thefuturecritic

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