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Microsoft, University Of Washington's HyperCam Could Give X-Ray Vision To Your Phone's Camera

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If you worry about the possibility of prepackaged produce already going bad when you go grocery shopping, then a new invention from researchers at the University of Washington could be the answer to your prayers.

Meet HyperCam, a multi-spectral camera that has the ability to impart X-ray vision to one's smartphone camera. Developed by Microsoft Research and the University of Washington, the HyperCam is able to capture near-infrared wavelengths when compared to the blue, green and red wavelengths captured by regular cameras. Thanks to this ability, the HyperCam is able to reflect the blood vessels beneath the skin in a different manner in regular light.

The HyperCam's technology operates on the principle of utilizing both the visible and the near-infrared aspects of the electromagnetic spectrum. The camera is not only able to light up a scene with 17 different types of wavelengths, but also captures an image for each.

So once a subject has been clicked by the HyperCam, one sees several images that are regular, but also literally in-depth.

"When you look at a scene with a naked eye or a normal camera, you're mostly seeing colors. You can say, 'Oh, that's a pair of blue pants!' With a hyperspectral camera, you're looking at the actual material that something is made of. You can see the difference between blue denim and blue cotton," explains Mayank Goel, lead author of the study.

The research team opines that the possibilities for the HyperCam are immense, and its technology can be deployed in several fields.

While this technology is currently around, it is costly. The hardware solution from the University of Washington's team costs $800, but the technology can be used in smartphone cameras for as little as $50.

However, a major hurdle for the HyperCam is that the technology is not optimal in bright lights as the camera's sensor could get confused by the wavelengths. Moreover, the prototype is a tad bulky for practical purposes, but this could be altered for portability.

The researchers detailed the project in a paper at the UbiComp 2015. Microsoft Research has funded the project which is based on hyperspectral imaging.

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