Texas Instruments is taking a shot in the dark. Well, actually it's allowing American soldiers to. The Dallas-based company is introducing several thermal imaging products that will be cheap enough for an array of new military and commercial applications.

TI will manufacture a lightweight weapon site, a vehicle camera and a stationary security camera that are smaller and much less expensive than conventional infrared systems that cost more than $50,000. In contrast, TI's thermal rifle sight will cost $25,000.

The hand-held thermal imager detects and recognizes a person up to 690 meters away with the standard lens and with an optional larger lens it can see 1,000 meters. In addition to being used for nighttime skirmishes on the battlefield, TI expects to sell the units to the marine, mining and firefighting industries, said Bill Stearns, TI's manager for uncooled infrared systems.

Stearns said TI is able to make the imagers cheaper by reducing their size and power requirements. In other imaging news, Eastman Kodak Co. is supplying the digital camera for one of several companies planning to launch commercial remote-sensing satellites. Thornton, Colo.-based Space Imaging, in cooperation with Lockheed Martin Corp. and E-Systems, a subsidiary of Raytheon, is one of the first companies licensed by the U.S. government to provide one-meter resolution satellite imagery of the Earth to commercial users. The new remote-sensing market is expected to be worth $5 billion by the turn of the century.

Another emerging foreign market some infotech specialists are targeting is Japan. EIS International Corp. of Rockville, Md., recently sold Japan's largest electronics manufacturer the exclusive rights to sell its emergency information system software in Japan. NEC Corp. and EIS are collaborating to translate the software into kanji, the Japanese language characters. NEC paid $1 million for the exclusive rights and expects $18 million in revenues from the deal; EIS expects $7 to $9 million.

NEC plans to install EIS at its own facilities to deal with emergency planning and response related to earthquakes, floods, terrorism and other potential hazards. NEC will also be packaging EIS software with its computers and communications hardware, as well as offering it for retail sale through a network of resellers in Japan.

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