The technology company foresees new hyper imaging devices that are more portable, affordable, and accessible than what we have today, “so superhero vision can be part of our everyday experiences,” according to Alberto Valdes Garcia, a research staff member and manager of the Radio Frequency Circuits and Systems Group, at IBM Research.
Garcia has been interested in electronics since his elementary school days. He built his first circuit in grade 6. After earning an undergraduate degree in electronic systems engineering in Mexico, he came to the United States to work on his Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering. He joined IBM in 2006, where he was involved in various projects such as developing the first graphene-based RF circuits, taking part in wireless standardization committees and University-industry research programs.
His recent blog is part of the IBM 5 in 5 report, a look at five technologies that have the potential to impact people’s lives in the next five years.
“In five years, emerging portable imaging devices will help us see beyond the domain of visible light to reveal valuable insights or potential dangers that would otherwise be unknown or hidden from view,” said Garcia. “Our ability to ‘see’ beyond visible light will reveal new insights that help us understand the world around us. This technology will be widely available throughout our daily lives, giving us the ability to perceive or see through objects and opaque environmental conditions anytime, anywhere.”
Millimeter waves are part of the electromagnetic spectrum, similar to light and X-rays, but with much longer wavelengths. They are a band of radio spectrum between ~30 GHz and 300 GHz that can be used for high-speed wireless communications and could become part of 5G.
One aspect which IBM researchers are exploring is how they can use compact millimeter wave systems for imaging. Their intention is to build a new type of imaging technology that uses separate portions of the electromagnetic spectrum “to make the invisible, visible,” according to Garcia.
Millimeter-wave radar imaging experimental set-up (Credit: Carl De Torres, StoryTK for IBM Research)
By enabling humans to see the invisible or barely visible, driving in even the weather conditions can be made safer.
For example, using millimeter wave imaging, a camera and other electromagnetic sensors, hyper imaging technology could help a car see through fog or rain, detect hazardous and hard-to-see road conditions such as black ice or tell us if there is some object up ahead, as well as its distance and size, according to IBM.
To make this possible, various technologies will need to come into play.
For instance, miniature sensors packed into a single platform will capture different non-visible properties from objects. These sensors will have chips and antennas designed to determine an object’s location distance, and reflectivity.
However, hyper imaging technology will also need an assist from artificial intelligence. AI will enable imaging devices to not only recognize objects, properties, and situations but also notify or warn humans about what these inputs represent.
Cognitive computing will provide the reason behind the data, said Garcia. “…it will recognize what might be a tipped over garbage can versus a deer crossing the road, or a pothole that could result in a flat tire.”
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