Imagine being able to pull out your phone to check if a bill is counterfeit or not. Imagine if you could use your phone camera to identify the ripest apple in the market. Imagine if you could use your camera to check if a mole is cancerous.
According to Alex Hegyi, within the next three to five years, hyperspectral imaging will likely be a part of your phones and everyday lives. Though the technology already exist, it is not financially feasible to be used by everyone. Alex Hegyi, who has a PHD in electrical engineering and computer science from UC Berkeley, has been making progress to make hyperspectral imaging easily available to everyone.
Chances are you’ve read, heard, or learned something about light spectrums. What you should know is that humans can only see the small visible portion. This visible portion includes the red, orange, yellow, blue, indigo, and violet light that we see. Certain animals like bees and snakes can see much more than we do. The hyperspectral imaging technique would allow us to expand our visible light spectrum to include infrared and ultraviolet.
To put this in perspective, imagine going from a black and white world to a world with color. That difference of adding visible light is smaller than the jump we would make from going from our visible colored world to one that includes ultraviolet and infrared light. The way this works isn’t all that complicated either.
In the past, this technology has existed in large bulky and expensive forms. It has not been feasible even for every large corporation to use. It uses complicated photonics to split wavelengths apart and make them all visible on a camera. Alex Hegyi, made a much more simple version. His relies on a simple black and white USB camera which he adds a liquid crystal cell to. This is pretty much the same technology that makes calculator screens turn rainbow colored when you touch them. He then made a clever software which allows these images to be processed on tablets and computer. It’s still not perfect yet, but it’s a huge leap. He expects the camera to be ready for smartphones in the next 3 to 5 years.
The benefits are endless to hyperspectral imaging. Even though it is painfully expensive, you can see some of its benefits today. Many big oil tycoons use this imaging to check for oil leaks, as certain wavelengths show certain carbon compounds being leaked out which indicates a potential leak.
Have you heard of this one really terrible person name Osama bin Laden? We would not have successfully found and eliminated him without hyperspectral imaging. It was expensive, but it allowed the Seal team to see through walls and analyze the defenses set up by Bin Laden. These pictures were analyzed and it led to the removal of one of the worst criminals of our time.
Those are just the large scale applications. The everyday uses would be amazing themselves. If you have a mole that you are worried about, inspect it with your camera to see for any activity to know if it’s cancerous or not. Are your teeth hurting? Inspect your teeth to check for tooth decay and save yourself a painful dentist visit. You can actually look at a tablet and ascertain the chemical compound spacings and such to make sure everything is well with your pill. You can verify if a bill is counterfeit or not and there are numerous other forensic benefits. You can check to see if plants and fruits are ripe, and whether they need more water or not. If you are exploring in nature, pull out the camera to search for nearby signs of life.
There are countless benefits. There are so many things that infrared and ultraviolet light can show you that you would be surprised. The laundry list above is only a short list. The applications are endless. Alex Hegyi is moving the world in the right direction. We’ve had his great technology for some time, it’s about time that someone made it feasible for everyday use. He hopes this technology will be used like a stethoscope. Easily picked up and used. It’s to be another extension of our individual abilities. Just like your phone and google have become a part of your everyday life, soon too will hyperspectral imaging.