Super Simple Night Vision





Introduction: Super Simple Night Vision

About: Currently a student at Carnegie Mellon University in Electrical Engineering. Classwork and clubs take up most of my time, so I probably won't post any projects soon, though I do plan to come back to posting...

This project diagrams the build of cheap but effective night-vision "goggles" elsewhere sold at twice the price.  These pick up near-infrared light emmited from a bunch of IR LEDS.  All the parts can be bought from for about $50, minus the enclosure.  This thing is great for campouts, hunting, party tricks, night paintball and much more. 

Sorry, but I do not have any pictures of the real thing, as it broke in a 20 foot fall out of my window.  Suprisingly, the camera and LEDs survived, but the monitor and box did not. 

This is a submission to the "Make it Real" and "Spy" contests. 

Step 1: Materials:

First you need to buy or find the materials.  All are avaliable on 
1 x automotive backup camera (avaliable at $13.1

1 x automotive backup monitor (avaliable at $21.7 

1 x 9.6V RC car battery (avaliable at $8.75

1 x box, I used 6-1/2" x 5" x 3", but anything that fits all the components will work.  I made mine from leftover acrylic spray painted black, so cost is neligible.   

1 x power switch, avaliable on amazon, or radioshack.  $0.5

1 x IR led array (avaliable at $5.6 

total price: 49.65

Step 2: Cutting Mustard

The first step is to cut the box. 
You will need to cut 2 eyeholes near one side.  Make sure they line up with the eyes of whoever will be using them. 
Make a nose cutout between and below the eyes.
Cut a hole for the power switch
Cut a 1/8" hole in the front and back of the box, one for the power to the camera and IR LEDS, and for the charging connector in the back. 

Step 3: Fill Er' Up

All of the electrical connections are fairly simple.  Connect the video wire from the camera to the video in on the monitor.  Cut the battery leads halfway between the connector and battery, then connect the battery - to one switch connection, and the - of the LEDs, monitor, and camera to the other and connect the + of the monitor, camera, and LEDs to the + of the battery. finially, run the wires from the battery connector to the inside of the box, and to the + and - of the battery.  Make sure the connector itself stays outside the box. 

Charge the battery if it is not, and turn on the power.  You should see an image on the LCD screen coming from the camera.  The IR LEDs should also light up if you go into a dark room.  If they do not, cover the photoresistor with some electrical tape.  The photoresistor is the rubber thing on the board that sticks up and has a red-tinted piece of glass on the top.

If the LEDs still do not turn on, check your connections.  They will glow dull red to the naked eye, bright pinkish purple to a normal camera, and white to the car backup camera. 

If the monitor and/or camera doesn't work, check your connections.    

Step 4: You're Almost There.

Now, peel off the cover on the bottom of the monitor and stick it to the bottom of the box, all the way at the back.  Glue down the battery and power connectors.  Use wire cutters, a dremel, or just snap off the projections on the side of the camera, but make sure not to damage the little box that houses the actual thing.  Glue it to the front of the box between the eyeholes.  Finially, glue the IR LEDS to the box and mount the switch in place. 

Test it one last time, glue all the wires in place, and seal up the box. 

Step 5: You're Done!

Now, wait until darkness strikes, and calmly flip the switch.  Now, look through the eyeholes and see everything.  This really impresses people, especially when they find out you built it yourself!  Spy on your enemies, watch nocturnal animals, suprise people, escape the zombie apocolypse, or just amuse people.  For a good "spy" look, paint it camouflage with leaves and some varrying greens and greys (like in the picture, or flat black (like I did).  (Credit for the picture goes to Kipkay, from his video for the L.A.W.)    

Notice that though the camera claims to be "infrared" it is actually near-infrared.  It will not act as a thermal camera, as heat emits very low-frequency infrared, well below what silicon camera sensors can pick up, even with the IR filter removed.   



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    19 Discussions

    Yeah, I've looked into those, but thay all seem to be unreliable or cheaply made. While it would reduce the price, this way generally works better.

    The cover on the bottom of the monitor that you stick to the back of the box

    1 reply

    That's just a piece of laminated paper or plastic, of course you can throw it away.

    Also, If you have any more questions, just send me a private message instead of commenting.

    And do you have a video or pictures of connecting the wires together?

    1 reply

    No, I don't have a YouTube account, but the wires are simple. Red goes to red, blak to black, yellow connectors to yellow connectors, and what bottom cover?

    Do you need the cover on the bottom of the monitor? Or can you just throw ut away?

    Cool thanks and have you figured any thing else to attach it all to like goggles or something?

    1 reply

    No, its pretty heavy to mount on something. I just hold it.

    No, unless they also have night vision. The LEDs are infrared, and therefore invisible to the naked eye. Depending on the LEDs, there may be an extremely dim red glow, but it is so dim as to be unnoticable unless you're looking directly at them from less than a few yards away.

    These safety goggles are impossible to knock off. I have gotten stuck with them on multiple times. The steroscopic night vision is a good idea though.

    1 reply

    Okay. The other issue might be focal distance. You need a fairly uncommon lens (concave lens) to see the screen, plus you do have to consider the torque of pulling the very front straight down.

    Not sure if safety goggles could support everything, but maybe a magnifying visor with the magnifier removed could.

    Also, I recently took apart some disposable cameras, and noticed that the viewfinder lenses can be taken out, and allow you to focus on large objects close-up, which could allow you to reduce the size of the unit significantly. Also, maybe even use two small screens and two cameras for stereoscopic night vision.

    I'm thinking about spray painting a pair of old safety goggles block and slapping this on it

    I've had some questions about the connections. They're fairly simple, all red wires or wires marked + except the battery are connected to one end of the switch, all the black wires are connected together (including the battery), then the video (yellow or white) jack from the camera connects to the monitor.

    Good project
    ,I,ve also tried building one but with lenses so as to reduce distance of lcd from eyes
    suggestion-use video glasses for lcd,it will become compact

    2 replies

    I have just looked said glasses up on, and the cheapest was $60, for ones which attach to an ipod. They may be modifiable, but I wouldn't risk it with such pricey shades. The cheapest ones that would work out-of-the-box are about $200, and the reviews don't make them seem very good. I would go with the screen and no lenses. I did originally tr to add lenses, but it didn't work well.

    Yes, originally I wanted to do that, but they are harder to find and more expensive. I didn't use lenses just for simplicity, and because it works fine without them. Also, the glasses would be dificult to mount the camera, battery, and LCD on without them becoming way too heavy to wear.