Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Blinded by the light

Now, this seems like bullshit. The Sunday Times reports:
Roman Abramovich zaps snappers with laser shield
[Abramovich's] boat’s most unusual feature is perhaps the anti-paparazzi “shield”.
Infrared lasers detect the electronic light sensors in nearby cameras, known as charge-coupled devices. When the system detects such a device, it fires a focused beam of light at the camera, disrupting its ability to record a digital image.

Tech mag Wired uncritically repeats the story (some blog comments there are rather more sceptical), as do many other organs that really should know better, and Amateur Photographer ponders the legalities of it.

The claimed tech makes very little sense, though. Most paparazzi use digital SLRs. In these, the sensor is hidden until the very millisecond that the photo is taken. Also, most professional DSLRs use CMOS sensors, not CCDs - even if this putative detection tech will work on both, that's very sloppy reporting.

It's not entirely made-up, though - there is technology that can detect camera CCDs and blind them with lasers. In 2006, Georgia Tech Research News reported on tech in development aimed at stopping illicit recording of movies. That notes:
Current camera-neutralizing technology may never work against single-lens-reflex cameras, which use a folding-mirror viewing system that effectively masks its CCD except when a photo is actually being taken.

It's entirely possible that Abramovich's people have installed a similar system in the belief that it will work against well-equipped paps. But whoever sold it to them is doubtless laughing - and not just at the Russians.

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