HawkSpex

HawkSpex is a new app developed by a German company that lets you look “inside” the objects around you. Find out how HawkSpex works today in our review.

What Is HawkSpex?

HawkSpex is a new app currently in development by a German company. The app allows you to look inside any object to reveal its constituent parts.

That German company is the engineering firm Fraunhofer Institute for Factory Operation and Automation. On February 1, the company announced they had developed an app that allows users to view the constituent components of objects using the front-facing camera.

The app is theorized to have a wide variety of applications across consumers and industries.

One of the possible uses for the HawkSpex app is to determine whether or not an apple labeled organic is really organic. You could use the HawkSpex app to take a picture of the object, then determine if there are any pesticide residues.

How Does HawkSpex Work?

HawkSpex obviously sounds a lot like magic. How can you determine what’s inside an object simply by taking a picture of it?

Well, HawkSpex builds off systems that are currently on the market. Today’s systems, for example, typically use external hardware attachments like a prism before they take a scan. These systems are costly, impractical, and don’t work well with modern cell phones.

Alternative scanning systems also typically use a hyperspectral camera, which adjusts to different colored light each time, then determines how much of a color’s light is reflected by an object. This creates a spectral fingerprint of the object.

What makes the HawkSpex system different is that users only need the camera that’s already on their smartphones. That’s where the magic comes in.

Instead of using prisms or third party hardware, HawkSpex uses mathematical algorithms and models to extract information from objects:

“Since hyperspectral cameras aren’t integrated into smartphones, we simply reversed this principle,” explains Professor Udo Seiffert in a press release from the company.

“The camera gives us a broadband three-channel sensor, that is, one that scans every wavelength and illuminates an object with different colored light.”

In layman’s terms, that means the app will light up your smartphone’s display with different lights, causing the object to be illuminated.

These color changes take place over fractions of a second, letting you rapidly scan an object in a short period of time.

This is also the reason why you need to use the front-facing camera: it’s because the display (the part of the smartphone that faces you) needs to light up with different wavelength colors.

How does flashing colors at an object reveal what’s inside? Well, when your smartphone displays the color “red”, that means the object can only reflect red light, and the camera can only measure red light.

The app then uses smart analysis algorithms to determine the contents of an object based on its ability to reflect different colors – because different substances reflect colors in different ways.

HawkSpex Applications

Who can use HawkSpex? How will the app be used? Seiffert admits that the app’s user base will likely be responsible for developing different uses for the app:

“There are so many conceivable uses the market will surely overrun us.”

That’s why the company’s engineers are relying on an approach based on Wikipedia:

“Once the app is launched on the market by the end of this year, active users will be able to contribute to the whole big thing and create new applications, for instance, that test pesticide exposure of heads of lettuce, by teaching the system such problems.”

In other words, the app’s applications and uses will work on a crowdsourced system.

Obviously, apps like HawkSpex have enormous commercial potential.

We’ve had ways to test objects for their constituents for some time (say, using expensive spectrometry equipment), but this is the first time a technology like this could be available in the hands of consumers.

Some of the suggested uses for the app include:

  • Quality control of foods, including testing whether or not fruits and vegetables are genuinely pesticide-free
  • Testing the effectiveness of cosmetic products
  • Testing agriculture to determine if crops are sufficiently supplied with nutrients or fertilizer

And much more.

HawkSpex Release Date

When will this space age technology be released?

The early version of the app has already been completed. As we speak, developers are working on a variety of applications for which the app can be used, and then they’ll be ready to release it to the public.

Fraunhofer expects the app to be released before the end of 2017.

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