New Tech To Read Books Without Even Opening Them, Science Fiction Becomes Real?

First Posted: Sep 12, 2016 05:40 AM EDT

On September 9, Researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) announced that they're developing an imaging system in collaboration with their colleagues from the Georgia Institute of Technology that will allow the reading of books without even opening them. Last Friday in a paper published in the 'Journal Nature Communications', the researchers described a prototype of the method. The technology is akin to that of X-ray vision, using which we can read closed books.

The scientists tested the technology first on a stack of papers, each with one letter printed on it. Being a prototype at present it could only read the first nine pages. The imaging system may also be used for study of materials appearing in thin layers, like those in the coatings of pharmaceuticals, the scientists stated.

How does the Tech Work:

The prototype device makes use of the terahertz radiation, electromagnetic radiation lying between microwaves and infrared light band. According to Previous researches it has been found that T-rays do possess advantages over X-rays. Terahertz rays have the ability to distinguish between ink and blank paper in a way that no other rays can. They can also be used to scan across depths and to yield higher-resolution images, according to the researchers.

Working on the imaging system, MIT researchers were responsible for developing algorithms to acquire images from each individual sheet whereas the Georgia Tech Researchers had to create an algorithm to interpret distorted images such as individual letters. "The imaging system they have devised is 'kind of scary' as it can be used to get past through letter verification on websites, for instance captchas," said Barmak Heshmat, corresponding author for the study.

Terahertz radiation is most commonly used for the security screening as different chemicals have different tendency to absorb different terahertz radiation frequencies. This results in distinct frequency signatures of each chemical. The prototype imaging system uses a standard terahertz camera that emits ultrashort bursts of such radiations. The camera has some built-in sensors enabling it to detect the reflections of the radiation. By the time the reflections reach, the algorithms join in to assess in the distance between the pages of the book that is being imaged.

"Most of the radiation either gets absorbed by the book, but some do reflect back hence resulting in false signals. To tackle this, the MIT algorithm has also a feature designed to filter out this noise", the scientists added. Distortions are far too great reaching page nine, so that's been set as the current threshold.

Terahertz imaging may be a relatively new technology, but it does holds a lot of promising future. Heshmat and his colleagues have been working on the fine-tuning of their prototype. They aim for deeper penetration of the objects by improving the power of radiation as well as the accuracy in their sensors.

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