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Affordable Camera Reveals Hidden Details Invisible to the Naked Eye

By ­niversity of Washington News and Information

October 19, 2015

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Researchers at the University of Washington and Microsoft Research say they are developing HyperCam, affordable camera technology that could soon enable consumers to tell if fruits or vegetables are ripe or starting to rot underneath the surface.

HyperCam is a lower-cost hyperspectral camera that uses both visible and invisible near-infrared light to "see" beneath surfaces and capture unseen details. In a paper presented last month at the ACM UbiComp 2015 conference in Osaka, Japan, the team detailed a hardware solution that costs about $800, or potentially as little as $50 to add to a mobile phone camera. They also developed intelligent software that finds "hidden" differences between what the hyperspectral camera captures and what can be seen with the naked eye.

In one test, the team took hyperspectral images of 10 different fruits over the course of a week, enabling the researchers to predict the relative ripeness of the fruits with 94-percent accuracy, compared with only 62-percent accuracy for a typical camera.

Images of a person's hand using HyperCam revealed detailed vein and skin texture patterns unique to that individual. In a preliminary test of 25 different users, the system was able differentiate between hand images of users with 99-percent accuracy.

The researchers say the technology could enhance gesture recognition, biometrics, and interactive video games.

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