This Camera Can Read A Closed Book, Because We're Clearly Living In The World Of Science Fiction

How do you read a book without ever opening it? With a new camera from MIT that can read a closed book — or at least part of one. It's like that psychic who claimed to be able to absorb a book's information just by putting it under his pillow while he slept. Except, you know, with science.

In the latest issue of Nature Communications, MIT researchers showcased a working prototype of the camera. Researchers tested it by trying to look at a stack of paper, each with a single letter printed on it. The camera was abel to correctly identify the letter printed on each of the first nine pages. And researchers are working on new improvements now to make it even more effective.

Not that being able to see through eight sheets of paper isn't already impressive.

So how does this even work? Unlike other forms of technology that help people "see" through solid objects, this camera doesn't use X-rays or sound waves, but rather utilizes terahertz radiation, which is in the band of electromagnetic radiation between microwaves and infrared light. Because different chemicals absorb different amount of terahertz radiation, the camera can detect the different radiation levels between the paper and the ink. Using algorithms developed by researchers at Georgia Tech, the camera can then take the fragmented information and assemble them into letters.

Thus, the camera can read through the cover of a book.

So what are the applications of this? Some of them are awesome. Barmak Heshmat, a research scientist at the MIT Media Lab who works on the project, said, “The Metropolitan Museum in New York showed a lot of interest in this, because they want to, for example, look into some antique books that they don’t even want to touch." And in fact, my guess is that a lot of universities and libraries with old books would love to get their hands on this type of technology.

Basically, the advances of the future are going to help us better understand the past. Which is pretty cool.

MIT Media Lab on YouTube