Hyperspectral cameras allow us to see what's invisible to the human eye, and even determine what things are made of. Unfortunately, the devices have tended to be big and cumbersome, limiting them to use in labs. Now, however, there's a portable model on the market.

Known as the Specim IQ, the camera was developed by Specim Oy, a spinoff company from the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland.

It works by emitting different wavelengths of light within the visible and near-infrared part of the electromagnetic spectrum, and then imaging that light as it reflects off an object's surface. Depending on the chemical composition of the object, it will reflect the light in a specific way – this is its spectral signature. While that signature won't mean much all on its own, it will when it's cross-referenced with a database of signatures of known materials.

According to VTT, the Specim IQ can be used for detecting things such as plant diseases, skin diseases, counterfeit art, faults in food and medicines, and traces of blood at crime scenes. Ordinarily for such applications, samples had to be sent off to lab-based hyperspectral cameras. With the IQ, however, analyses can be performed on location.

Although the camera has just recently become commercially available, there are already indications that smartphones may eventually be able to do what it does. VTT recently altered an iPhone camera to work as a hyperspectral camera, plus researchers at the University of Washington and Tel Aviv University are working on miniaturizing the technology to smartphone-size.

Sources: VTT, Specim

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