MIT Uses Terahertz Radiation And Sophisticated Algorithms To Read A Book Through Its Cover

The prototype system heralds the potential future for computational imaging technologies

MIT and Georgia Tech researchers have developed a prototype computational imaging method that can read text through a closed book using electromagnetic radiation.

Using the band of radiation sitting between microwaves and infrared light, known as terahertz radiation, MIT has a system created a system that can distinguish the difference between ink and blank paper, which traditional X-rays are unable to do.

A terahertz camera fires ultrashort busts of radiation at a closed book and through its sensors detects the reflections the radiation returns. By picking up the tiny air pockets between the pages it can detect the first 20 individual pagers of a closed book, though only distinguish text at a depth of nine pages.

Due to the difference in how different chemicals absorb different frequencies of radiation, the system can distinguish the ink from the pages of a book. Algorithms are then used to form images out of the radiation, as well as filter out background interference.

Algorithms from Georgia Tech then uses that imaging data to recognise the letters on a page often out of distorted or incomplete images.

Future imaging

hacking teamEffectively, the research has allowed \MIT and Georgia Tech to produce a system that can read a book through its cover. However, the technology is in its infancy, but it still demonstrates where advances in computer imaging can take the technique.

“So much work has gone into terahertz technology to get the sources and detectors working, with big promises for imaging new and exciting things,” says Laura Waller, an associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science at the University of California at Berkeley. “This work is one of the first to use these new tools along with advances in computational imaging to get at pictures of things we could never see with optical technologies. Now we can judge a book through its cover!”

The technology has the potential to be used to read antique books that historians do not want to risk damaging by leafing through the pages, or for analysing materials that are organised into thin layers such as coatings on pharmaceuticals and machine parts.

All this research leads to computer systems that are becoming increasingly proficient at carrying out human tasks, such as Google DeepMind’s WaveNet which can mimic human speech.

The technology industry is characterised by rapid change and populated by colourful figures. New developments are often so transformational they seem hard to believe… and in some cases natural scepticism is justified. But can you spot the fake stories from the real ones?