' ); } }) .catch(function(err) { (console.error || console.log)(err); }); }());

Clever new LED lighting system thwarts unwanted smartphone photography

In a world in which virtually everyone carries a high-quality camera with them in the form of a smartphone, enforcing “no photography” rules — for copyright or privacy reasons — is next to impossible. That’s a problem researchers at the University of California San Diego and the University of Wisconsin-Madison have attempted to solve with a new project. To do so, they’ve created a smart LED system, which produces a flickering pattern that interferes with the camera sensor on mobile devices.

“We developed LiShield, a smart LED ‘light shield’ which deters illegal photography of sensitive physical objects, such as people, museum art, or documents, and automatically enforces the visual privacy protection without any user intervention,” Shilin Zhu, one of the researchers on the project, told Digital Trends. “The basic principle is to illuminate the environment with an eye-transparent light waveform, so that captured images or video are distorted because of the camera’s rolling shutter mechanism.”

As Zhu mentions, what makes the solution particularly useful is that the flickering pattern is invisible to the human eye, since it takes place at such a high frequency — while nonetheless wreaking (temporary) havoc on a phone’s camera sensor.

University of California-San Diego/University of Wisconsin-Madison
University of California-San Diego/University of Wisconsin-Madison

The researchers have also come up with a way to let “authorized users” recover the image or video by sending waveform information about the light’s flickering pattern to the mobile device so that the two can sync together, or by piecing together several frames of video to create a still image. Zhu says that it is also possible to get the LED to generate structured light to embed an invisible watermark, which can then be detected after the fact by online servers to prevent illegal distribution.

At present, the technology works only with a single LED and a relatively small indoor space. In the future, the researchers want to explore methods of using multiple smart LEDs to cover a much larger area. “We are also developing a way to further enhance the protection so that the system can be used in applications which require high security, such as would be the case with the military,” Zhu continued. “We are happy to help anyone who is interested in commercializing this technology to take it into the real world.”

A paper describing the work was recently presented on the first day of the ACM Mobicom 2017 conference, near Salt Lake City, Utah.

Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: A.I. selfie drones, ‘invisible’ wireless chargers

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Home Theater

The seven best TVs you can buy right now, from budget to big screen

Looking for a new television? In an oversaturated market, buying power is at an all-time high, but you'll need to cut through the rough to find a diamond. We're here to help with our picks for the best TVs of 2018.
Photography

Photography news: Best spot for fall photos, new firmware from Fuji and Nikon

Where's the best spot to take fall photos? Michigan, according to social media and a Nikon contest. The results and more in this week's photography news, including significant firmware updates for the Fujifilm X-T3, X-H1, and GFX 50S.
Emerging Tech

Stronger than steel, thinner than paper, graphene could be the future of tech

Since its discovery, graphene has set the research world on fire. What exactly is it, though, and what could it mean for the future of tech? Here's everything you need to know about what could be the next supermaterial to take center stage.
Emerging Tech

Ancient crater the size of NYC discovered under the Greenland ice sheet

A huge crater has been discovered beneath the ice of Greenland, and is thought to be the result of a meteorite impact millions of years ago. The crater is one of the largest ever discovered, measuring 19 miles across.
Emerging Tech

Here’s how the InSight mission to Mars will confirm its landing to NASA

NASA's InSight mission has sent a lander to Mars. NASA researchers have now shared details on how they will monitor the touching down of the lander at the end of its 91 million mile journey.
Emerging Tech

Would you swap your keycard for a microchip implant? For many, the answer is yes

Put down your keycard! More people are turning to implanted RFID chips as their choice of workplace identification. Should we be worried about a world in which employees get microchipped?
Outdoors

‘Super magnesium’ may be the next wonder material for outdoor gear

Super Magnesium is a wonder material that is 30 percent lighter than aluminum, as strong as carbon fiber, cheaper to make, and 100-percent recyclable, making it much better for the environment.
Emerging Tech

Forget joysticks — the Guts Game is controlled by a sensor that you swallow

Researchers have created an unusual new game in which players swallow a biosensor and then compete to raise or lower the temperature in their gut. Sound crazy? Here's why it could catch on.
Emerging Tech

Step inside the Nepalese restaurant staffed by robot waiters

A robotics startup from Nepal has created a robot waiter called Ginger. It's capable of delivering food from kitchen to table, and can even engage customers in a bit of friendly banter as it does so.
Emerging Tech

Doctors could soon ditch stitches and seal skin wounds with lasers

Just like the dermal regenerator in Star Trek, physicians may soon be able to heal skin wounds using smart, laser-based technology. That's thanks to researchers from Arizona State University.
Emerging Tech

From tornado flushes to remote controls, modern toilets are flush with tech

With the global observance of World Toilet Day on November 19, we take a look at how the modern toilet in our homes and businesses have evolved, and how they are becoming smarter tools in the future.
Emerging Tech

NASA selects the all-important landing site for its Mars 2020 rover mission

NASA said on Monday that the landing site for its much-anticipated Mars 2020 rover mission has the potential to "revolutionize how we think about Mars and its ability to harbor life."
Emerging Tech

NASA’s ‘space wheat’ is helping earthbound farmers grow crops quicker

Could NASA technology for growing plants on other planets help farmers improve crop yield here on Earth? According to researchers in Australia and the U.K., the answer is a resounding yes.