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By Lumistar's Chief Scientist

December 15, 2013

Robot Security Guards Have Thermal Imaging Camera

Lumistar Blog Knightscope K5

At 5 feet tall, 300 pounds a new droid is coming to a shopping mall near you for working for only $6.25 an hour. The average minimum wage in the United States is $7.25, or 9.32 in Washington state. Coming in substantially under those costs, Knightscope’s robot watchman service raises questions about whether artificial intelligence and robotics technologies are beginning to add another dimension to the workforce. This mobile robot known as the K5 Autonomous Data Machine, will replace security guards, with an industry wide high turnover of more than 400% at private security firms, or as the economic projections predict fulfill unmet demand as there will be a shortage of security personnel by 2024. Areas of interest for this new device, available next year, are schools, shopping centers, hotels, auto dealerships, stadiums, casinos, law enforcement agencies, seaports, and airports. The National Center for Education Statistics estimates 1.9 million incidents of violence, theft, or other crimes had taken place during the 2009-10 school year. Additionally, 790,000+ students reported carrying a weapon on school property on one or more days during a 30-day period because they felt unsafe. The company that makes the K5 hopes to put a dent in the $1+ trillion negative economic impact all crime has presently. The Knightscope K5 has a lot of this mash up of tech inside so that it can essentially see, hear, smell and ‘feel’. But as with all things robotic in order to see at night to be even remotely capable as humans it must have infrared. With thermal imaging cameras the machine has super vision in all conditions. Also on-board are analytics, proximity sensors, high quality microphones, biological, chemical and radiological detection, 360-degree HD video, GPS, and 3D mapping, radar, a laser range finder (LIDAR), ultrasonic speed and distance sensors, air quality sensor, and optical character recognition technology for scanning things like license plates for starters. The Knightscope founders believe in their future hard worker will be capable of crime prediction, or “precog” — a theme of the movie “Minority Report.” The all-seeing mobile robots will eventually be wirelessly connected to a centralized data server, where they will have access to “big data,” making it possible to recognize faces, license plates and other suspicious anomalies. Privacy advocates have concerns this is simply a real-time Google Street View System. The company defends their product by saying, “We have a different perspective. We don’t want to think about ‘RoboCop’ or ‘Terminator,’ we prefer to think of a mash-up of ‘Batman,’ ‘Minority Report’ and R2D2.” The K5 is not armed at this time.

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Filed under: Business,Camera,Infrared,Lumistar,Technology,Thermal Imaging,Uncategorized — Tags: — Lumistar @ 08:00

November 15, 2013

Hollywood’s Good, Bad & Ugly of Thermal Vision

Lumistar Movie Photos With Infrared

Thermal Imaging is often portrayed as something its not in Hollywood movies. For example, sometimes it’s portrayed incorrectly as being able to see through walls such as the beginning of Mission Impossible III. While MIT is working on x-ray technology that let’s armed forces get an approximate idea of how many people are in a building with little boxes representing the people, the technology is still in progress and certainly doesn’t involve the infrared spectrum. On the other hand, being able to use what is essentially long wave invisible red light, or infrared, to see through walls is absolutely impossible. Not even the use of powerful satellites using infrared technology is it possible to see in houses, no matter who says it, the physics say it’s – mission impossible! One of the most laughable misrepresentation of thermal infrared is the movie The Expendables. In the beginning scene where the heroes are rescuing a hostage they use futuristic thermal infrared goggles, a strategic high-tech advantage over their enemies in the dark. When the lights come on they are completely blinded as if it were night-vision when it it clearly is thermal infrared. Thermal infrared looks exactly the same with high light exposure or darkness as modern digital sensors are looking at the invisible infra-red energy. I suspect when they originally wrote the script and shot the scenes they intended it to be that greenish amplified moonlight night-vision, but Sylvester Stallone and the special effects department figured it would look cooler as thermal imaging in post-production, the heck with the science. In the movie Oblivion, thermal imaging is used for guardian droids to identify threats and looks somewhat similar to the Terminator movie franchise. Androids are often portrayed as having thermal vision as machines don’t have “cones” and “rods” in their eyes, medical terms describing how living beings can transition their vision in darkness. Therefore, without thermal infrared these machines would be vulnerable as they would see as a grainy CCTV camera would in the dark. These android movies can partially be overlooked because these moves take place in the sci-fi future and some of the technology is a way to go. (Or is it? See next month’s blog.) Finally, on the other extreme, the thermal infrared technology of the 1980’s was used in the movie Predator, represented by an alien’s everyday vision.  I’ve met with the scientist that was the consultant for the camera used in Predator several times, and the technology was state-of-the-art for of the 1980s. But as you can see from above movie still, today’s Lumistar cameras are literally 32x or more better than what was the most expensive resolution of the 80’s produced. Unfortunately, some camera companies still have not advanced that far from the 80s and look like the primitive vision of an alien creature that can make the interstellar travel to earth but can’t see too well. (Note:  I just realized every movie I can recall off-hand involving thermal vision either has Tom Cruise or Arnold Schwarzenegger in them.)

May 15, 2013

Drones Use Infrared to Identify Civilians With Guns

MQ-1 Predator unmanned aircraft image courtesy of the US Air Force

MQ-1 Predator unmanned aircraft image courtesy of the US Air Force

In what has become a growing controversy, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security continues to push the boundaries on what constitutes invasion of privacy vs. catching criminal acts via aerial drones.  As the debate heats up and  more information comes to light as to whether these drones used for civilian purposes will be armed with some kind of ammunition such as the hellfire missile, citizens and advocacy groups are becoming concerned whether military drones will be used lethally in a non-combative situation on U.S. citizens.

In March, NBC News uncovered a confidential 16-page Justice Department memo that concluded the U.S. government may execute a drone strike on American citizens if the government believes the suspect to be either a “senior operational leader” of al-Qaeda or “an associated force.”  The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) obtained and revealed a partially redacted copy of Homeland Security’s drone requirements through a Freedom of Information Act request. CNET found a  copy that included all the text.

The technology of the drones used for civilian use, referred in the documents above, is of  interest.  These docs state the Department of Homeland Security has an unmanned drone fleet with technology that can ‘root out civilians who are carrying guns’.  Homeland Security design requirements specify that its Predator B drones “shall be capable of identifying a standing human being at night as likely armed or not,” and must be equipped with “interception” systems capable of reading cell phone signals.

What does this have to do with thermal infrared imaging?  The answer is simply put: when a drone has the capability to find something at “night” it is usually involves thermal infrared imaging. Occasionally near-infrared (NIR) is used, and on helicopters at lower altitudes with less expensive equipment night-vision technology is used, which is the greenish looking video used in night-vision goggles and scopes. But large drones like the Predator B are at high altitudes to go undetected therefore use thermal imaging.

To explore this idea further, it wouldn’t be an X-ray camera on board the Predator B because of the lack of current technology due to the energy needed and the radiation danger to the public. It wouldn’t be a normal visual camera as it can’t see at ‘night’ even with LED on a zoom lens. It wouldn’t be a  the greenish night-vision camera (a notch below near-infrared ‘NIR’ or two notches below thermal imaging)  because it couldn’t clearly see if someone is holding a weapon even with a zoom at high altitude. It also couldn’t tell if someone has a bomb or many other weapons.  The only technology as is the opinion of this author is thermal imaging. Thermal imaging is the only camera that can ‘see’ through the atmosphere in multitude of conditions and ascertain a weapon is being held due to the differential in temperature of cold steel and the surrounding air. A thermal camera can spot a weapon if someone was holding it in their hand or even possibly under their clothing or other concealment. Of course a ‘zoom lens‘, as the gov puts it in their response to public inquiry, is critical in this procedure and the only thing gov officials will confirm can achieve this feat.  Add the assist of an on-board computer to identify weapon-of-type and you got a militarized civilian-use piece of hardware – Predator B.


April 15, 2013

Thermal Quasi-Reflectography For Art Conservation

(a) Color Photo; (b) Near Infrared -NIR; (c) Mid-Wave Thermal Infrared; Note: helmet detail in photo ‘c’

In recent times, art restorers have employed lasers and other sophisticated imaging techniques by other infrared techniques or Ultraviolet and X-ray to reveal details not present to the naked eye. Over time wall murals are re-touched, many times painting over original details unrecoverable by past imaging tools.  Now a team of Italian researchers from the University of L’Aquila, the University of Verona, and Italy’s National Institute of Optics in Florence, have developed the latest imaging tool that can bring back these features for future restoration, and may even give more details about pigments used long ago.

This technique known as Thermal Quasi-Reflectography (TQR), takes advantage of reflected infrared light from the mid-infrared part of the spectrum (3-5 micrometers in wavelength). Why specifically the mid-infrared portion of the spectrum?  Because certain materials shine more brightly in one wavelength than in others.  At normal room temperature, paintings typically emit more invisible light in the longer infrared wavelengths than they do in the mid-infrared. These researchers came up with the idea of flooding the works of art with these normally scant (1.1%) mid-infrared wavelengths (using halogen lights a great sources of mid-IR) to see what detail reflects back with an infrared camera. Unlike traditional thermal imaging techniques reading the heat differences reflected represented by individual pigments, or the less detailed reflection of light in the Near Infrared (NIR), the TQR system reveals new details of great works of art.

The researchers were careful the halogen lams were place far away enough not to produce heat on the art which would defeat the process creating longer wavelengths.  “For mural paintings the use of the mid-infrared regions reveals crucial details,” said Daffara. “This makes TQR a promising tool for the investigation of these artworks.”


March 15, 2013

Brain Implants Lets Rodents ‘Feel’ Infrared Light

Infrared signals, which the rat senses through a device attached to its brain, lead the rat to a reward. The device enables the rodent to feel infrared light. (Figure courtesy of the Nicolelis Lab)

Infrared signals, which the rat senses through a device implanted in its brain, lead the rat to a reward. The device enables the rodent to learn the feel of infrared light. (Figure courtesy of the Nicolelis Lab)

Researchers at Duke University in North Carolina, implanted infrared detectors into rat brains so that they could sense infrared light around them creating a ‘sixth’ sense. The infrared camera was place on top of their heads and wires went from the camera to electrodes implanted within the part of the brain responsible for touch. Through experiments, scientists were able to prove the rodents could feel the infrared light around them. This breakthrough will lead to further research on how to connect an external “brain” ie: a camera detector or computer processor to an organic living brain or ‘brain-to-brain interface.’ Imagine this furthering research for humans to have cybernetic ‘wet wiring’ to external memory with many packets of new skills or information. Or an external camera wired into the brain to assist the blind. This groundbreaking research proves you can use another part of the brain and re-purpose it for another task, in this case putting sight reception into the part of the brain responsible for touch. For the first time scientists have re-purposed the brain in new ways successfully. “This suggests that, in the future, you could use prosthetic devices to restore sensory modalities that have been lost, such as vision, using a different part of the brain.”  It may also lead to neural implants that could let the paralyzed walk again. Or use X-ray cameras to give subjects ‘X-ray vision’, according to Duke University.


February 15, 2013

Infrared Digital Holography Saves Lives of Firefighters

See Video: Here
infrared holography
A comparison of a traditional imaging system: the view of a man is obstructed by flames, and a new technique using digital infrared holography, where the viewer can see a man standing and waving his hand behind the flame.

A great challenge for firefighters is seeing through smoke to find those trapped in structures engulfed in fire. If a firefighter has the latest high-tech equipment he can see though the smoke to find victims, but what if the victim is surrounded by flames? Often that scenario overwhelms an infrared camera so that it can’t see anything but the fire itself, not what’s beyond.  A team of Italian researchers has developed a new imaging technique that uses infrared (IR) digital holography to solve this problem of seeing through flames.  Studies showed that the camera lens was part of the problem. As most zoom lenses are, they are designed to hyper-focus the infrared light or energy onto a specific area on the sensor located inside the camera.  But researchers found if they removed the lens with the aid of scattered infrared laser beams that can pass through intense heat and flames they were able to create an ‘ghostly’ holographic image of a person behind a wall of flames.

“Unlike visible light, which cannot penetrate thick smoke and flames, the IR [laser] rays pass through largely unhindered. The IR light does, however, reflect off of any objects or people in the room, and the information carried by this reflected light is recorded by a holographic imager. It is then decoded to reveal the objects beyond the smoke and flames. The result is a live, 3-D movie of the room and its contents.”

With traditional non-thermal infrared recorded holographic images the subject must remain still for each frame. With this technique using infrared, scientists prove that recording holographic images while movement is present can be done for the first time.  This technology can have wide range of applications other than firefighting.  Potential uses could range from  biomedical field to non-destructive testing of large aerospace composite structures.


January 15, 2013

‘Stealth Wear’ Clothing Created To Dodge Aerial Drones

Thermal Hoodie

A New York-based artist aware of the current controversy over military-style surveillance aerial drones used on U.S. civilians has fought back with a unique invention: thermal cloaking hoodies made from metalized material used to counter the infrared cameras that spy drones use to spot people on the ground.

The  artist, Adam Harvey, 31, also offers accessories with his ‘fashionably paranoid’ line of clothing: a surveillance busting cell-phone carry pouch, as well as a shirt that blocks X-rays over the heart just in case the Feds want to take-you-out so to speak.  While drone technology is controversial in the United States, it remains a truth that thermal imaging infrared camera(s) are the main sensing tool on-board the drones.  Currently, based on a landmark Freedom of Information lawsuit by the Electronic Frontier Foundation last year, they forced federal authorities to reveal there are at least 63 active drone sites in 20 U.S. states.

Harvey originally created his clothing line as conceptual art, but with great interest from the public items are now currently on sale. These clothing pieces won’t be cheap though, due to the expensive metallic materials involved a hoodie cost aprox. $1000, while a burqa (only covers the upper body) is closer to $3000. Harvey states ‘Military technology is coming home from the war.’  This rings true due to the fact that Lumistar has been converting military high-tech technology for industrial use for years.  Fortunately, even if a person covered themselves from head-to-toe with this high-tech material our smart cameras used for security and surveillance would still detect intruder movement due to sensitivity in contrast.  Rest assured the bad guys can’t use drone-busting technology such as this to their advantage from ground (terrestrial) based camera sensors. On the other hand, in terms of aerial drones, as their cameras are spread out far range, this hoodie could potentially be effective in that scenario. Happy drone dodging.


September 24, 2012

Infrared Satellite Technology Used to Harvest Grapes

Wine growers in the south of France are using infrared camera technology (NIR) in satellites to observe their vines as they ripen, leading to targeted harvesting, getting the plant to bottle at perfect timing, the correct ripeness per type of wine, and a higher quality product. [See video.]

March 7, 2011

Infrared Camera Finds First Extraterrestrial Rain

As astronomers will tell you, the only visible region of Saturn’s smoggy moon of Titan is the desert like region located at the equator which has giant sand dunes (50 miles long, half mile wide and 900 feet high). What is known about Titan is that it’s around 290 degrees Fahrenheit below zero causing the regions of extreme cold located at the north and south poles to form thousands of lakes of super-chilled hydrocarbons.

Recently, scientists from Johns Hopkins University studied infrared time lapsed images of Titan’s sand dunes using NASA’s Cassini satellite’s infrared camera, as it has recently become spring on Titan. Scientists noticed decreases in the brightness of the moon’s surface after clouds had swept over the equatorial region. After close study they were able to find infrared images confirmed methane rain was present leaving areas the size of Arizona and New Mexico combined wet.  The Cassini probe has given proof that Titan has seasonal climate similar to Earth.  Instead of water, as on Earth, Titan’s cycles of precipitation and cloud formation involve hydrocarbons methane and ethane.  No word if these methane rain showers cause rives to form.  Due to Titan’s location in the outer solar system scientists have 7.5 years to figure it out, as spring comes every 30 years. [See video above.]


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