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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.)

October 15, 2013

Pink Alien Planet Photographed With Infrared Camera

Lumistar Blog

Photo: Glowing a dark magenta, this image is an artist’s representation of the alien world. Click picture for greater detail. Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/S. Wiessinger

Astronomers have snapped a photo, using NIR cameras, of a pink alien world that’s the smallest (lowest-mass) exoplanet yet found around a star like our own sun. The proper name for this alien planet is GJ 504b, is cold with few clouds and it likely has a dark magenta hue, infrared data from the Subaru Telescope in Hawaii revealed. “If we could travel to this giant planet, we would see a world still glowing from the heat of its formation with a color reminiscent of a dark cherry blossom, a dull magenta,” study researcher Michael McElwain, of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., said in a statement from the space agency.

Although the gas planet is the smallest ever found around a sun-like star, it’s still huge — about four times the size of our solar system’s gas giant Jupiter. It lies nearly 44 Earth-sun distances from its central star, far beyond the system’s habitable zone. The newly found ‘pink planet’ has cause for alarm for scientists as it challenges common held beliefs in traditional models on how planets are formed due to its size and massive distance from it’s host star.


Though it is the smallest alien world caught on camera around a sun-like star, the gas planet around GJ 504 is still huge — about four times the size of Jupiter. It lies nearly 44 Earth-sun distances from its central star, far beyond the system’s habitable zone, and it has an effective temperature of about 460 degrees Fahrenheit (237 Celsius), according to the researchers’ estimates. – See more at:
Though it is the smallest alien world caught on camera around a sun-like star, the gas planet around GJ 504 is still huge — about four times the size of Jupiter. It lies nearly 44 Earth-sun distances from its central star, far beyond the system’s habitable zone, and it has an effective temperature of about 460 degrees Fahrenheit (237 Celsius), according to the researchers’ estimates. – See more at:

September 15, 2013

Thermal Imaging Allows ATM Theft From A Distance

Lumistar; ATM Keypad Thermal Imaging

Researchers have learned a new way thieves can steal ATM information – using thermal infrared cameras to reveal the user’s PIN. Traditionally thieves use an illegal card skimmer attached to an ATM in conjunction with a video camera. The researchers found using their thermal camera’s software it performed more accurately predicting one’s PIN, in chronological order in some cases, than humans in their study looking at video much like the thieves. Researchers detected PINs with approximately 80% accuracy 10 seconds after the person entered their PIN. Forty-five seconds after being pressed the thermal cameras were still able to determine PINs with a 60% accuracy. Non-thermal cameras used in ATM skimming attacks won’t get the job done if the target is blocking the view of the thieves’ hidden video camera using their forearm or hand, for example. Of course thermal cameras overcome this obstacle because its capturing an echo in time, capturing the person’s left over heat on the keys shortly after the target has left. Keep in mind this discovery also applies to other keypads such as access to secure office buildings and digital safes. One good piece of news the researchers found: while plastic PIN pads with rubber keys are a jackpot for potential thieves, on the other hand, metal PIN pads made thermal detection attacks almost impossible because they retain heat for only a few seconds due to their high conductivity. The researchers said one way to combat the heat transfer of plastic/rubber keys is to place your hand over the entire keyboard to warm all the keys – if you can handle the germs lol.

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August 15, 2013

Infrared Missile Tracking Tech Used On B-Ball Players

infrared basketball court

Now coming to basketball: using infrared tracking cameras and 3D imaging analytic software — technology used by the military to track missiles. The camera system with it’s 6 infrared cameras mounted in the rafters, three per half court, captures 25 images per second, that’s 72,000 time-stamped images per game on average. Within 60 seconds coaches know specific player information such as ball touches and number of dribbles on their computer or iPad. Later, after the game is finished a detailed report follows. How each individual team uses this information remains a secret guarded closer than launch codes. 15 teams have signed up, costing $100k per team, per year.

It was meant for missiles but it’s all about the metrics. Every player movement, every pass, every shot. Some examples: passes per possession, fouls drawn, how many times a player gets away with fouls, how a player performs when the defense is 3.5 feet away vs. 5 feet (it’s that precise), which players held the ball for more than five seconds on a possession and an individual player’s hottest areas to score from just to name a few — information central to a game’s outcome but not found anywhere near a traditional box score. Luke Ridnour, for example, ran 3.33 miles in one game, the eighth-longest in one season. It’s reportedly still in the developmental phase, with most experts agreeing only 10% of the system’s potential is currently being utilized. This infrared missile tracking technology has the potential to change the sport from how players are recruited, how a player’s worth is calculated and how it’s coached. For example, instead of pulling a player when he looks tired, coaches could review how many sprints he’s completed during the game, how many times he’s reached his peak speed, or how much he’s run in relation to other games. How injuries are treated in the future will change as well. As an example, the cameras could help teams evaluate players returning from knee injuries. Doctors could limit him to running ‘two miles’ during a game instead of giving a minute limit which is ambiguous in terms of how much stress is being put on a knee.

If the entire NBA purchases this technology, even coaches who are resisting this level of information who are badly behind compared to other teams will have new advantages. This infrared technology is currently only being used by the NBA in the U.S. but the inventor is looking into modifications for the NFL as well. Imagine the scoreboard of the future: ‘Brought to you by Pepsi: How many miles Michael Jordan has run so far.’

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July 15, 2013

Thermal Camera Captures Passengers on Sinking Ship

Photo: Passengers form a human hand over hand chain decent in the dark to the water on a sinking cruise ship Costa Concordia 2012.

Photo: Passengers videoed with thermal camera in the dark form a human hand-over-hand chain decent down to the water where the coast guard awaits next to sinking cruise ship Costa Concordia.

Unfortunately, on January 13, 2012 due to reported captain incompetence, waiting an hour while the ship sank before telling passengers ‘abandon ship’, caused the loss of valuable time for the 4,200 passengers on board. The consequences of delay caused the clock to run out on his own passengers and crew as hundreds of passengers remained trapped on board. Some got out on lifeboats that were forced into free-fall from multiple stories high in the air due to the ship capsizing. Concordia eventually rolled on her starboard side. The passengers who were not able to make a lifeboat were forced to make a frightening hand-over-hand decent in the dark down a rope laid across the capsized ship’s hull. Rescue helicopters were able to capture the above thermal image at night. It took months to recover some of the bodies of 32 passengers that died in the wreckage. The captain was eventually charged with: multiple manslaughter, abandoning a ship, and failing to communicate with maritime authorities. The chaos of the Costa Concordia sinking has thrown a spotlight on the standards of training and emergency preparedness for all crew members including those involved with food and beverage. To see the full details of this disaster unfold watch, Why Ships Sink: Nova available on Netflix.

June 15, 2013

Thermal Imaging Finds Hidden Boston Bomber

Massachusetts State Police released video taken of Boston bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s hiding spot after he was discovered in a boat parked in a Watertown, Mass. backyard. The boat’s owner was the first to find Tsnarnaev in the boat after going outside to smoke when the citywide lock-down was lifted.  The owner said he saw something out of place and upon a closer look the cover had been cut. Lifting the cover to look inside, he discovered the suspect, calling police to report his discovery shortly thereafter. The first part of the video is taken with a thermal camera mounted to a helicopter, which is designed to pick up the infrared part of the electromagnetic spectrum. The video switches to a full color CCTV camera, then back to thermal infrared for visual comparison. The best thermal images from the above video come between t-minus 20 through 12. This technology is often used by police to locate suspects and by the military to isolate targets, as human body heat is particularly recognizable when juxtaposed with objects that aren’t giving off nearly the same amount of heat. It picked up the heat signature of the individual, and was able to see-through the boat cover he was underneath on the boat itself.  The helicopter was able to direct the tactical teams over to that area.

Update: Tsarnaev was convicted in federal court in Boston, April 2015, and is now on death row.

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.”


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