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Finnish researchers develop hyperspectral smart phone camera

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Scientists from the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland have developed a hyperspectral camera for smart phones. In what the researchers say is a world’s first, the mobile camera is anticipated to bring low-cost spectral imaging to consumer applications such as sensing food quality or monitoring health. 

Optical spectral imaging offers a versatile way of sensing various objects and analysing material properties. Hyperspectral imaging provides access to the optical spectrum at each point of an image, enabling a wide range of measurements.

Cost-effective micro-opto-electro-mechanical systems (MOEMS) technology has enabled the development of new hyperspectral mobile applications for environmental sensing and observation from vehicles and drones. Other applications include health monitoring and food analysis. 

In VTT's new hyperspectral device, an adjustable MOEMS filter is integrated with an iPhone camera lens and its adjustment is synchronised with the camera's image capture system.

Similar hyperspectral technology for mobile phones, based on an optical MEMS device, has been developed by Israeli startup, Unispectral Technologies. The company secured $7.5 million of funding in April 2016.

VTT has already developed a range of new applications for the new iPhone cameras, such as diagnosing skin cancer, environmental sensing based on nanosatellites, various drone applications for precision agriculture and forest monitoring, and projects underway for the remote measurement of vessel emissions.

‘Consumer benefits could appear in health applications, such as mobile phones that are able to check whether moles are malignant or food is edible. They could also verify product authenticity or identify users based on biometric data. On the other hand, driverless cars could sense and identify environmental features based on the representation of the full optical spectrum at each point of an image,’ explained Anna Rissanen, who is heading the research team at VTT.

‘Today's smart devices provide huge opportunities for the processing of image data and various cloud services based on spectral data. Mass-produced sensor technology will enable the introduction of hyperspectral imaging in a range of devices in which low-cost camera sensors are currently used,’ Rissanen commented.

VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland aims to cooperate with companies to commercialise the technology and bring new, innovative optical sensor products to the market.

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