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Phoning your way to a perfect complexion

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MUNICH, Germany — Coming soon to a mobile phone near you: digital mirror technology that can analyze facial skin, warn three days in advance of an impending pimple and enable the victim to take preventative measures before it becomes a huge zit on your first date with Prince—or Princess—Charming .
“It’s what I call ‘quality of life’ improvement,” said Gene Frantz, Texas Instruments’ principal fellow.
He’s not kidding.

The anti-blemish feature was made possible by combining an image sensor and DSP inside a mobile phone. The sensor captures an image of the face and the DSP processes the image data and generates “appropriate information.” An unnamed software developer is working on a skin analysis algorithm to detect and predict incipient blemishes. Frantz, attending Electronica 2006 here this week, said, “I just had a dinner with him last night. There are crazies out there who are developing [applications] we’ve never imagined or thought possible before.”

Mobile phone pimple detectors represent just one example of how sensor data can be processed by an embedded sensor to generate information. Citing increasingly sophisticated signal processing capabilities, Frantz said he foresees an era in which “traditional A-to-D [analog-to-digital] conversion is now shifting to A-to-I [analog-to-information] conversion.” “The end game I envision is a small module integrated with a sensor, DSP to convert picture to information, RF to transmit information and power supply.” Twenty such sensors could be positioned around a house to build a surveillance system, he said. In this scenario, there’s enough signal processing power to generate only “appropriate information,” Frantz said. For example, a surveillance system would ignore the routine but spring into action to transmit images of an intruder entering through a window. This is possible, said Frantz, “without users having to become IT experts.”

Frantz acknowledged there is a “human acceptance” issue when surveillance is involved. “The society needs to accept it, and historically, a lot of new technologies won’t get immediately accepted.” Another issue is affordability. Installing seven cameras and building an intelligent system for information analysis and feedback remains expensive, said Frantz. TI’s DSP-only DaVinci is touted as the first step toward cutting costs, turning a DSP embedded in a camera module into a “smart endpoint,” Frantz said.

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