Scientists in China are making stress the key to preventing terrorism in their development of a new mini camera, which is designed to identify potential suicide bombers in crowded areas.
Electronic engineering Professor Chen Tong of Southwest University in Chongqing led the development of a “stress sensor,” which uses hyperspectral imaging to look for heightened blood oxygenation in individuals. The sensor peers through the electromagnetic spectrum allowing a viewer to measure the amount of oxygen in the blood of exposed body areas like the face.
“The higher the mental stress, the higher the blood oxygenation,” Chen said in a South China Morning Post report.
Chinese law enforcement officers peering through the device at a crowd of people will see a mental “stress bar” displayed above each individual’s head, measuring their stress and highlighting potential suspects in red.
Tong’s invention is already raising concerns over its potential to violate privacy and promote government abuse, but is also arriving on the heels of multiple recent deadly attacks in crowded public places. Chinese authorities reportedly described attackers as ranging from “knife-wielding religious extremists going on rampages in train stations to distraught citizens setting fire to crowded buses.”
“They all looked and behaved as ordinary people but their level of mental stress must have been extremely high before they launched their attacks,” Chen said. “Our technology can detect such people, so law enforcement officers can take precautions and prevent these tragedies.”
Though lab tests of the technology have been successful, scientists have yet to develop the capability to deploy the tech in the field, which will require transmitting the input data for quick analysis off site to a powerful computer, and sending back the results.
Another professor at the same university is developing a similar wristwatch-like device, which officers can strap onto suspects and measure their heart rate, breathing and skin response — other indicators of stress.
“The technology can be used on terrorists, but harmless people such as petitioners and protesters could be the target as well,” Shanghai resident Li Jiancheng said. “I would feel uncomfortable and tense if a police officer stared at me through strange goggles.”