Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

The Anti-Camera: Technology Developed to Block Use of Digital Cameras, Pirating of Movies by Video Cameras

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

The Anti-Camera: Technology Developed to Block Use of Digital Cameras, Pirating of Movies by Video Cameras

Article excerpt

Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology have completed a prototype device that can block digital-camera function in a given area. Commercial versions of the technology could be used to stymie unwanted use of video or still cameras.

The prototype device, produced by a team in the Interactive and Intelligent Computing division of the Georgia Tech College of Computing, uses off-the-shelf equipment - camera-mounted sensors, lighting equipment, a projector and a computer - to scan for, find and neutralize digital cameras. The system works by looking for the reflectivity and shape of the image-producing sensors used in digital cameras.

Gregory Abowd, an associate professor leading the project, said the new camera-neutralizing technology shows commercial promise in two principal fields - protecting limited areas against clandestine photography or stopping video copying in larger areas such as theaters.

We're at a point right now where the prototype we have developed could lead to products for markets that have a small, critical area to protect, Abowd said. Then we're also looking to do additional research that could increase the protected area for one of our more interesting clients, the motion picture industry.

Abowd said the small-area product could prevent espionage photography in government buildings, industrial settings or trade shows. It could also be used in business settings - for instance, to stop amateur photography where shopping-mall-Santa pictures are being taken.

James Clawson, a research technician on Abowd's prototype team, said preventing movie copying could be a major application for camera-blocking technology.

Movie piracy is a $3 billion-a-year problem, Clawson said, and it's a problem especially acute in Asia. If someone videotapes a movie in a theater and then puts it up on the Web that night or burns half a million copies to sell on the street, then the movie industry has lost a lot of in-theater revenue.

Movie theaters are likely to be a good setting for camera- blocking technology, said Jay Summet, a research assistant who is also working on the prototype. A camera's image sensor - called a CCD - is retroreflective, which means it sends light back directly to its origin rather than scattering it. Retroreflections would probably make it relatively easy to detect and identify video cameras in a darkened theater.

The current prototype uses visible light and two cameras to find CCDs, but a future commercial system might use invisible infrared lasers and photo-detecting transistors to scan for contraband cameras. Once such a system found a suspicious spot, it would feed information on the reflection's properties to a computer for a determination.

The biggest problem is making sure we don't get false positives from, say, a large, shiny earring, said Summet. …

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