Digital camera foiling technology

Discussion in 'Digital SLR' started by RichA, Sep 19, 2005.

  1. RichA

    RichA Guest

    Crave privacy? New tech knocks out digital cameras

    By Michael Kanellos

    Story last modified Mon Sep 19 04:00:00 PDT 2005

    Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology have come up with an
    inexpensive way to prevent digital cameras and digital video cameras
    from capturing that secret shot.

    The technology they've devised detects the presence of a digital camera
    up to 33 feet away and can then shoot a targeted beam of light at the
    lens, according to Shwetak Patel, a grad student at the university and
    one of the lead researchers on the project.
    click to view photos of prototype

    That means that someone trying for a surreptitious snapshot of, say, a
    product prototype or an amorous couple gets something altogether less
    useful--a blurry picture (or a video) of what looks like a flashlight
    beam, seen head on. (A video of how the system works can be viewed

    The group has developed a lab prototype--which consists of a digital
    projector with a modified video camera mounted on top--but will soon
    design a device that could be manufactured and sold commercially. The
    group, which presented a paper on its work at Ubicomp (The Seventh
    International Conference on Ubiquitous Computing) in Tokyo last week,
    is also in contact with large consumer electronics manufacturers.

    Though photo-foiling gadgets are one possibility, the technology might
    also eventually be incorporated into digital projectors and other
    devices as a feature.

    The Georgia Tech researchers aren't alone in their pursuit. Tech giant
    Hewlett-Packard, for one, has applied for a patent on technology that
    could remotely cause blurry pictures in digital cameras, but it
    requires putting additional circuitry inside the camera. HP and others
    are also working on projection technology meant to stymie video piracy.

    The technology is a stab at ameliorating the privacy problems that have
    arisen with the advent, quick ubiquity and tiny dimensions of digital
    cameras. Nearly 85 percent of cell phones in Japan come with built-in
    digital cameras, and the figure for North America and Western Europe is
    supposed to rise to 80 percent by the end of next year, according to
    market researcher Gartner.

    "It certainly is a concern, and it has been a concern since cameras
    have gotten really small," said Steve Baker, an analyst at NPD Group.
    "It is a lab trick that has some real-world application."

    Companies commonly confiscate digital cameras temporarily from visitors
    coming to their labs or confidential meetings. "But you can't
    confiscate a phone. Someone might be expecting an important call,"
    Patel said.

    Many companies also maintain strict no-photography policies in quasi
    public places. Someone trying to take pictures inside a Wal-Mart or an
    electronics boutique will immediately draw a warning, or expulsion.
    Conferences also have similar rules. Patel himself got in trouble
    trying to take a picture of a "No Photography" sign to illustrate where
    theinvention could be used.

    "If it is a big exhibit hall, it is impossible to confiscate all of the
    cameras," said Patel.

    How it works
    The Georgia Tech system essentially exploits the "retroreflective"
    property of digital camera lenses. When light strikes a retroreflective
    surface, a portion of the light bounces back to the original source.
    While eyeglasses, bottles, watches and other glass surfaces are
    retroreflective, a coating on virtually all digital camera lenses puts
    cameras in a class of their own.

    "The film atop lenses (is) highly reflective," said Patel. "A lot of
    people probably have known this but they haven't thought about
    leveraging it."

    In this system, a device bathes the region in front of it with infrared
    light. When an intense retroreflection indicates the presence of a
    digital camera lens, the device then fires a localized beam of light
    directly at that point. Thus, the picture gets washed out.

    The neutralizing light continues until the camera lens can no longer be
    detected, which prevents video cameras from capturing clear footage.

    For added security, the system emits light beams in a pattern that
    prevents cameras from compensating for the light. (In the lab
    prototype, the video camera, with its built-in infrared beam, serves as
    the camera detector, while the projector is the neutralizer.)

    The technology can detect and block multiple cameras and works on
    cameras with either CCD or CMOS imagers, which are used in the vast
    majority of digital cameras.

    The neutralizing light is also highly focused to minimize distractions.
    "We only light up pixels where the reflection is coming from," Patel
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    More work lies ahead for the researchers. The current implementation
    works indoors and only up to certain distances--it's effective at a
    range of up to 10 meters and covers a 45-degree area. Cameras close to
    the detector and at a sharp angle can fall into an undetectable dead
    zone. Fast shutter speeds might also present some challenges, as do
    filters, though it turns out that the camera detector can spot lenses
    cloaked with infrared filters.

    While the prototype relies on a digital projector for the neutralizing
    light source, the group believes it can also use a laser pointer and
    two mirrors to foil photographers.

    "That will make it a lot cheaper to do," Patel said.

    The prototype is also rather indiscriminate--it knocks out whatever it
    believes to be a camera. Some companies have released antiphotography
    tools, but those tools work only if the camera or cell phone has a
    Bluetooth chip--and then only if the gadgets are preprogrammed to shut
    down when the chip receives a "no photographs" message.

    So the broad nature of the Georgia Tech system is a good thing, Patel
    said. "It doesn't require cooperation of the camera."

    Copyright ©1995-2005 CNET Networks, Inc. All rights reserved.
    RichA, Sep 19, 2005
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  2. RichA

    Gormless Guest

    Thanks to our roving reporter.
    Gormless, Sep 19, 2005
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  3. RichA

    Rich Guest

    Don't like, don't read.
    Rich, Sep 20, 2005
  4. RichA

    Darrell Guest

    Wow, somebody reinvented a flash slave!
    Darrell, Sep 20, 2005
  5. I know of guys in the biz who have set up a slave pointing backwards so
    people couldn't steal their wedding setups. Or they've used a huge
    umbrella fill and a shorter than normal lens for formals so that the
    normal lens crowd would always get their equipment in the shot.
    Randall Ainsworth, Sep 20, 2005
  6. RichA

    eawckyegcy Guest

    Rich scribbles:
    No point, don't post.
    eawckyegcy, Sep 20, 2005
  7. [Article snipped]

    I'm sure that as soon as any such device goes into use, someone will
    find a way to neutralise it. Thus the average person will be
    inconvenienced, and the malefactor will get round it, just as with most
    such repressive measures.

    For example, from the description, a simple hand in the way of the
    "neutralising beam" - or a french flag - could make it useless. Or a
    different coating.

    I'm also surprised by the "more reflective" coatings on the lenses.
    Camera lenses are virtually always substantially less reflective than
    ordinary glass. As for why "digital" lenses would be different, I cannot

    I also find it hard to see the other customers of the store using this
    device being happy with constant searchlight beams going off all over
    the place. I look forward to reading of the first law suit from someone
    driven into an epileptic fit by it.

    In fact, the more one thinks about this, the more it seems to be either
    a hoax, or yet another pointless invention which fails to do what it


    PS - at least they won't work with pinhole cameras :)
    David Littlewood, Sep 20, 2005
  8. Which pretty well describes most (not all) of the college research
    projects I remember from the University ...

    Charles Jones ()
    Loveland, Colorado
    AIM: LovelandCharles
    ICQ: 29610755
    Charles Jones, Sep 21, 2005
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