Produced by a team in the Interactive and Intelligent Computing division of the Georgia Tech College of Computing (COC), the device uses off-the-shelf equipment – camera-mounted sensors, lighting equipment, a projector and a computer – to scan for, find and neutralize CCD, including CCTV cameras in a given space. 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, says the new camera-neutralizing technology shows commercial promise in 2 principal fields – protecting limited areas against clandestine photography or stopping video copying in larger areas such as theaters. For the security industry, the first use poses a particular threat.A camera’s image sensor – called a CCD – is “retroreflective,” which means it sends light back directly to its origin rather than scattering it. These retroreflections make it relatively easy to detect and identify video cameras in a darkened environment.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 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 research assistant Jay Summet.“We need to make our system work well enough so that it can find a dot, then test to see if it’s reflective, then see if it’s retroreflective, and then test to see if it’s the right shape.”Once a scanning laser and photodetector located a video camera, the system would flash a thin beam of visible white light directly at the CCD. This beam – possibly a laser in a commercial version – would overwhelm the target camera with light, rendering recorded video unusable. Researchers say that energy levels used to neutralize cameras would be low enough to preclude any health risks to the operator.Camera neutralization’s potential has helped bring it under the wing of VentureLab, a Georgia Tech group that assists fledgling companies through the critical feasibility and first-funding phases. Operating under the name DominINC, Abowd’s company has already received a Phase 1 grant from the Georgia Research Alliance (GRA) with VentureLab assistance.Good computer analysis will be the heart of effective camera blocking, Summet believes.“Most of the major work that we have left involves algorithmic development,” he said. “False positives will eliminated by making a system with fast, efficient computing.”