The HyperCam, a new type of camera in development by the University of Washington and Microsoft Research, will let users look at the matter of which things are made of. Buyers will be able to tell if a fruit is rotten, the difference between blue jean and blue cotton, and see the veins beneath your skin surface.

Regular cameras take their photos in a three band spectrum: red, green, and blue, combining those three colors to develop the image. The HyperCam uses hyperspectral technology that involves images from the electromagnetic spectrum —gathering images from 17 different bands— and combines it in one photograph.

HyperCam is a low-cost hyperspectral camera developed by UW and Microsoft Research that reveals details that are difficult or impossible to see with the naked eye. Credit: University of Washington

“When you look at a scene with a naked eye or a normal camera, you’re mostly seeing colors. You can say, ‘Oh, that’s a pair of blue pants. With a hyperspectral camera, you’re looking at the actual material that something is made of. You can see the difference between blue denim and blue cotton,” said lead author Mayank Goel from Microsoft, according to CNET.

Hyperspectral technology has been used by NASA in space programs such as NASA’s Airborne Visible/Infrared Imaging Spectrometer (AVIRIS). But, when the HyperCam is ready, users will be able to use this technology at their phones, for a reasonable price.

Researchers developing the camera said that most of this hyperspectral devices are expensive and difficult to use, so they decide to create one for themselves, pointing the camera at regular objects and seeing what information it could provide.

For example, if you want the camera to see a fruit, it will be able to see beneath the skin and predict their ripeness —with a 94 percent accuracy. Also, it is possible to be used for biometric identification, as the camera captures vein and skin texture patterns on people’s hand, differentiating them with 99 percent accuracy.

Compared to an image taken with a normal camera (left), HyperCam images (right) reveal detailed vein and skin texture patterns that are unique to each individual. Credit: University of Washington

Researchers say that their next steps to keep developing the camera are to improve its performance under bright light conditions and then adapting it to smartphones to make it affordable —they want it to cost $50.

Source: CNET