Turn your Android device's camera into a Geiger counter with DARPA-funded app

Image Insight on Monday announced the first free trial release of GammaPix for Android smartphones, an application that loosely measures gamma radiation with the phone's camera.

The GammaPix gimmick is that it can detect radiation in different everyday situations, such as cosmic radiation while flying in an airplane, or gamma radiation in medical waste. You simply pull up the app, and begin taking a reading. Under normal circumstances, the camera can grab a complete reading in about five minutes.

The application uses technology that analyzes video and still imagery for the signature of gamma rays that have hit the image sensor. The measurements themselves indicate the rate of interactions of gamma ray radiation with the particular camera being used, so different phones will yield different results. Image Insight formed in 2010 with the explicit purpose of developing this app under a $679,000 contract with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

The application is in no way a replacement for a Geiger Counter or Scintillation Counter, and is intended only for use in non-emergency settings where radiation could be present, furthermore the app only provides non-quantitative measurements for observing variations in gamma ray exposure.

Still, it's a neat concept.

Initially, the app will be available as a free trial download in Google Play on specific Android phones, then an iOS version will be released, and a version for first responders will follow.

Though the app is compatible with phones running Gingerbread and up, it may not work with your device. Setup takes in excess of 20 minutes, and I spent all morning trying to get it to work on the Galaxy Nexus, to no avail. We're going to keep trying with other Android devices today. Let us know how you fare.

Photo: Bob Orsillo/Shutterstock

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