World’s Best Night Vision vs World’s Darkest Room

World’s Best Night Vision vs World’s Darkest Room

We visited the US Navy to test the best night vision goggles in the world. Head to to start your free 30-day trial, and the first 200 people get 20% off an annual premium subscription.

If you’re looking for a molecular modeling kit, head to to try Snatoms – a kit I invented where the atoms snap together magnetically.

Huge thanks to Dr. Ben Conley and the entire team at the Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane Division. You can check out more of their work here:
Or their YouTube channel here:

Video References:
Tyson, J. (2001). How Night Vision Works. How Stuff Works. –
Montoro, H. P. Image Intensification: The Technology of Night Vision. Photonics. –
Brain Stuff – HowStuffWorks via YouTube –
Photonis via YouTube –
Operator Drewski via YouTube –
Night-vision device via Wikipedia –
Image intensifier via Wikipedia –
Lodriguss, J. How Digital Cameras Work. AstroPix. –
Kinka-Byo. (2019). What is the physical cause of increasing noise at high ISO? StackExchange. –
Macias, A. (2015). The secret NVGs SEAL Team Six wore on the Bin Laden raid. Business Insider. –
Van Dommelen, L. Thermionic Emis­sion. Quan­tum Me­chan­ics for En­gi­neers. –
Nave, R. (2016). Blackbody Radiation. HyperPhysics. –
Night Vision Terminology – Generations. ModArmory. –
NASA (2018). X-ray Detectors – Electrical Current Detections. –

Images & Video:
Osama Bin Laden report, via CNN on YouTube –
Sicario Night Raid Scene, via Movieclips on YouTube –
Splinter Cell footage, via Ubisoft on YouTube –
Step Brothers Night Vision Scene, via masusockvevo on YouTube –
Ukraine report, via CNN on YouTube –
FLIR K2 Thermal Imaging Camera footage, via Teledyne FLIR on YouTube –
Chandra X-ray Observatory imagery, via NASA –

Special thanks to our Patreon supporters:
Adam Foreman, Anton Ragin, Balkrishna Heroor, Bernard McGee, Bill Linder, Burt Humburg, Chris Harper, Dave Kircher, Diffbot, Evgeny Skvortsov, Gnare, John H. Austin, Jr., john kiehl, Josh Hibschman, Juan Benet, KeyWestr, Lee Redden, Marinus Kuivenhoven, Mario Bottion, Max Maladino, Meekay, meg noah, Michael Krugman, Paul Peijzel, Richard Sundvall, Sam Lutfi, Stephen Wilcox, Tj Steyn, TTST, Ubiquity Ventures

Directed by Emily Zhang
Written by Emily Zhang and Derek Muller
Edited by Trenton Oliver
Animated by Mike Radjabov, Fabio Albertelli, and Ivy Tello
Filmed by Trenton Oliver, Emily Zhang, Derek Muller, and Raquel Nuno
Produced by Emily Zhang and Derek Muller

Thumbnail by Ren Hurley
Additional video/photos supplied by Getty Images and Pond5
Music from Epidemic Sound

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32 Responses

  1. Gennadiy Shnaider says:

    During night watch in the military looking at the stars through night vision was one of my favorite things.

  2. Jackal1412 says:

    When I was in basic training, they took us out for night shooting exercises which involved NVGs.
    When it was my time, the first thing I noticed was the night sky! One of my drill sergeants, who was a fairly chill dude, noticed that I wasn’t paying attention to the stuff down range as much as he would have liked. He came over to ask why I was not paying attention and I mentioned the night sky. He had never bothered to look and decided to look up and was also enthralled by the amount of stars that could be seen as well as the cones of light in front of planes and other miscellaneous details. He let me keep the NVGs on the entirety of the rest of that exercise. Truly awesome dude, it’s an experience that I’ll never forget.

    • Hastypete says:

      The best education happens when something out of the ordinary happens. He was also a very good teacher.

    • Poop Smith says:

      People who keep saying this makes me feel like they’ve never been outside a city.

    • Jackal1412 says:

      @Poop Smith I’ve lived in the country and I’ve seen the night sky miles away from cities, but this was an entirely different experience.
      After getting back home, I looked up ‘Dark Sky’ sites to try and replicate it. While it’s absolutely majestic, it doesn’t compare in the amount of stars and detail you get.
      Obviously, getting to see things with your own eyes is preferable, but if the amount of light it is emitting is too small to matter on the retina, it doesn’t do any good.
      While I understand where you are coming from, until you can experience both, it’s hard to describe.

      What stinks is that I’m not far away from Crane Naval Base but will never get the chance to play with these awesome tools!

    • hiddenguy67 says:

      ​@Poop Smithsorry we aren’t all rich to go travelling every 2 seconds

    • Poop Smith says:

      @hiddenguy67  traveling? I grew up in a place where you can see pretty much what they’re showing in the video, with added color. My family certainly isn’t rich.

  3. Brian Howell says:

    When I was 13 years old I met a guy in a field out by my house in a small town in Texas.
    He was working on something we didn’t understand. So my friend and I went over to ask him a few questions.
    It turned out he was working for Texas instruments and was working on night vision stuff at the time. That was in 1974.
    He let us look through it so we could see what he was doing. We were amazed. A small highlight from my childhood!

  4. Old Fat Trying says:

    The fact that they figured this out and it was operational in the 1950’s and then the gen 2 in the 60’s is just mind boggling. Conceptually and practically, it’s so impressive.

    • A Slick Named Pimpback says:

      not only that, there were a few prototypes used in WW2 as early as 1939, first by the germans than the US

      Edit: 1939 was just the first military use, 1929 was when the “infrared-sensitive (night vision) electronic television camera” was invented by a Hungarian guy for the UK, meant for AA use

  5. The Trivial Things says:

    This channel has maintained, if not increased the quality of its content over a decade! Astounding!

  6. RidelikeLightning says:

    Last 2 weeks I had my annual mandatory field training, and for 2 days, a battle simulation was planned. We started at 0400 in the morning, you could not see a thing.

    When I switched on the new NVG generation we received this year (Theon Nyx), I was absolutely amazed by how far technology has come over the years. It’s just like at daytime (everything b/w ofc, similar to the light blue in this video). Except you can see everything at the natural resolution of your eyes. We were joking a lot about the older gen models. Really green picture, heavy, not very comfortable, the new ones are like 4K-video in comparison to 480p. All with a single AA-battery. It almost feels natural, after a while you get really used to it. After 2h the weight gets a bit tiring, but thats ok.

    The crazy thing is how easy it is to spot someone with these.

    Especially with smart watches that measure your pulse. It’s impossible to see them with your eyes, but their sensor is really bright in near IR, even from more than 100m away. Same goes for smartphones proximity sensors. They do not even have to be activated to be highly visible, even in a pocket and through multiple layers of fabric.
    Flashlights are a no brainer, it’s almost like a signal flare, no matter how far the distance is.

    Also, some fabrics (eg. sport underwear) may look dark or olive green in visible light, but in the IR spectrum they shine bright, almost white.

    So almost any electronic device, or the wrong clothing is an easy target with the newest NVG.

    I think the one in the video is of similar quality. But the video doesn’t do it any justice. It’s A LOT better if you see it through your own eyes.

  7. Jason F. says:

    Kind of a random thought, but it’s crazy that in sci-fi, you don’t see more “night vision overlays” on car windshields. Seeing Derek drive with such confidence in the dark made me think about a future where cars don’t have to rely on active illumination to drive at night and therefore don’t blind oncoming traffic. Is it feasible? Maybe not, but it’s still a cool thought.

    • jurandfantom says:

      I see one potential issue, car is not driving in dark (city other cars) and need lights to make animals and pedestrian aware of vehicles approaching. Then there is “issue” of all other technology that really on fact that car have lights.
      I think it would be beneficial to maks small additional screen or just keep such Google in your compartment just in case.

    • SekirDelyn says:

      You think about the scene from Terminator 2, driving away from the hospital? 😉

    • gothicbagheera says:

      The U.S. military has already surpassed that level of night vision. They were using the type of technology you’re taking about in the early 2000’s on almost all Army combat vehicles and was called the FLIR system.

    • Andreas I says:


    • SB Dunk says:

      ​@jurandfantomYeah but the lights wouldn’t need to be blinding

  8. amaclean04 says:

    During Marine Combat Training when I joined the Marine Corps I used PVS-14 NVGs in field training at night and the difference was just amazing. That model went over one eye, typically set up for the non dominant eye, so we still were able to use the optical scopes on our rifles and retained some depth perception and definition, but it did come with heavy eye strain at first before we got used to it. I’ll never forget the first time I looked at the night sky through NVGs. You have not lived until you looked at the night sky through military NVGs. The video is not quite the same as seeing it in person, but still looks amazing

  9. Doug Dimmedome says:

    The similarity between photomultiplier tubes and the amplified night vision goggles is one of the many proofs that research in particle physics has really developed many useful ideas.

    • Christopher Leubner says:

      Yup ive even seen what i belived were likely seconds grade MCP units used for hybrid photomultiplier tubes where it has the photocathode and the mcp of the nv tube and a standard PMT dynode string to amplify the electronic signal. It was used in a chemical sensor for detecting transgene colonies in a culture sample using a special protein. Also seen the same except with a photodiode to sense faint laser energy for a countermeasure system. ❤

  10. Alepap says:

    I’m a huge NV/ Thermal nut and done tons of research, since i want to see it be faithfully reproduced in media like games and movies, that often get the look and effect wrong.
    Love that you are covering this.

    8:05 Yeah people mount pvs14s to telescopes for astrophotography , usually with SNB (purple looking) filters that seem to reduce noise somehow.

    • its dox says:

      lol its funny that even in this video they STILL can’t reproduce just how good night vision looks to your naked eye. it actually gave me a better respect for some modern games since of the line L3 unfilmed white phosphor looks **that good**

    • Matt says:

      ​@its doxit has to be experienced to be understood

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