My Thoughts on Technology and Jamaica: University of California 3D printers reveals Sound Photography coming to smartwatches and smartphones

Friday, March 4, 2016

University of California 3D printers reveals Sound Photography coming to smartwatches and smartphones

“According to the fundamental laws of physics, energy is not consumed; it's converted from one form to another -- electromagnetic to kinetic, for example. Some forms of energy are translated in meaningful and useful ways; others become emissions, which may unintentionally disclose secret information”

Professor Mohammad Al Faruque at the University of California, Irvine commenting on their research in 3D printer espionage

Shhhhhh! Turns out those noises made by your 3D printer can leak your secret designs.

Researchers at the University of California, Irvine have discovered that sounds made by a 3D printer can leak information about what's being printed as reported in the article “Your 3D printer is telling people what it's making”, published March 3, 2016 by Michelle Starr, CNET News.

This was discovered by the research team led by Professor Mohammad Al Faruque was a serendipitous one, quote: “My group basically stumbled upon this finding last summer as we were doing work to try to understand the relationship between information and energy flows”.

Apparently the sound energy created by the extruder, motors as well as the gears can be used to determine what is being printed, a concepts that the tested using a specific printer and a 3D printer key. Surprisingly they were able to reproduce the key with 90% accuracy albeit I suspect this is specific to model and make of the printer.

Theoretically, however, a sound library of different 3D printers as well as special DSP (Digital Signal Processing) software can be developed that can analyze the sounds from multiple 3D printers, making it possible to determine what’s being printed on ANY 3D printer.

3D Printer espionage is born….or is it Sound photography? So what does this mean for smartphone and smartwatches?

University of California, Irvine Sound discovery about 3D printers - How Sound photography can be the next big thing on smartphones

Sound, like heat, is waste energy as not all energy in a system is converted into useful work.

As humans we use our ear to listen and hear, with sound analysis being a great tool to analyze the stars via converting their radio waves to audible sound equivalents to analyze Gases as explained in the article “Blind astrophysicist listens to the stars by turning data into sound”, published Feb 18, 2016 By Lisa Johnson, CBC News.

Back on Earth, the heat from an object can give away it position, which is why countries spend millions of dollars developing stealth technology to hide the heat signature of their armored vehicles and planes.

This research interests me, as it means that you can easily spy on a friend who refuses to allow you to take photographs by using passive audio i.e. recording sound and then use that sound to reconstruct the scene in the same way a photograph can. Effectively, you can use the sounds in a room to take a photograph, if you will, of the room, without ever having to pull out a optical camera.

Even more interesting, it suggests that you can also use active audio as well, as instead of recording the sound of the printer, one could build a small module into a Smartphone that produces ultrasound that then scans the object.

Ultrasounds photography – Images with higher detail than a optical camera

Please note these are the same ultrasounds that can also be used to power Smartphone and tablets, if Meredith Perry’s Ubeam becomes a hit as noted in my blog article entitled “Why Meredith Perry's Ubeam's Wireless Charging Future is a Good Vibration”. 

This idea of sound scanning is the same as using LIDAR (Light Detection And Ranging) with lasers to scan a 3D object, as per the research by Caltech as detailed in my blog article entitled “@Caltech's Portable 3D Scanning Device - How portable 3D Scanning using LIDAR gives a boost to 3D Printing revolution”.

A much better analogy would be the University of Washington's hyperspectral Camera that takes pictures using EM (Electromagnetic) radiation in the radio wave band as explained in my blog article entitled “University of Washington HyperCam - How Hyperspectral Imaging can improve Biometric Identification in Apple iPhones”. 

As sound is omni-directional, combine with ultrasound and the right DSP algorithm, it’s possible to turn your smartphone or smartwatch into a Digital Camera that takes panoramic pictures in much the same way the Samsung Gear 360 does as described in my Geezam blog article entitled “How Samsung Gear 360 is a Creative Tool for YouTube VR Content”.

The processing power of smartphones can be used to analyze sound and create pictures of our surroundings through passive audio. Even better, the use of active sonar build into Smartphone and even smartwatches can be used to scan objects and take 3D pictures in the same way a camera take pictures using light, but with greater accuracy.

Sound photography along with Ultrasonic Charging, will be the next big thing on smartphones and smartwatches by 2020.

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