Seems like an episode out of a sci-fi movie, but an innovative camera that can read the pages of a closed book is now a reality. A brainchild of the team of researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Georgia Tech, this innovative camera can interpret the text written on a heap of sheets without having to flip through them.

innovative camera

To test this system, the researchers printed a single letter on individual sheets of paper. They found that their technique is capable of identifying letters to a depth of nine pages.  But as the radiation sensors will be refined over time, this technique will be able to read entire books without ever opening them.

The Underlying Technology  

As per a paper published in Nature Communications, this innovative camera uses ‘tetrahertz’ radiation which is the band of electromagnetic radiation between microwaves and infrared light. It is deemed as a better approach compared to the other surface-penetrating waves like X-rays or ultrasound.

Tetrahertz radiation is absorbed in different ways by different chemicals, thus, it can be used to distinguish between a book’s paper and ink. A camera is used to emit the tetrahertz radiation on the book. The way the ink reflects the tetrahertz radiation back to the camera is interpreted by an algorithm of the MIT researchers, as an image. Another algorithm by the Georgia Tech team processes the image. Finally, the system is able to interpret individual letters from the image. The MIT Media Lab researcher, ‘Barmak Heshmat’ said this algorithm can also get through the ‘captchas‘, the letter certifications which are used by a lot of websites. Therefore, its unethical use is scary.

Who can Benefit from this technology?

The researchers pointed out several application areas, where this technique can be effectively employed.

  • This can scan reams of paper at once thus saving a lot of human work in offices.
  • It can also assist spies in reading e-mails without opening envelopes.
  • It can be used to analyze the materials organized in thin layers, such as coatings on the machine parts or pharmaceuticals.
  • This technology can also be of great aid to the researchers by scanning the ancient books which are too fragile to open.

The Metropolitan Museum in New York showed a lot of interest in this, because they want to, for example, look into some antique books that they don’t even want to touch,“ said Barmak Heshmat, a research scientist at MIT.


It is certainly a great innovation that can provide its unique assistance in many areas of its application. The associate professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at ‘UC Berkeley’, ‘Laura Waller’, said that this innovation is an advancement in computational imaging. She said it will now be possible to ‘Judge a book by its cover’.

Watch this impressive innovation in action in this video:


With so many incredible technological advancements being unveiled each day, we can imagine our future akin to our favorite sci-fi movie.

What are your opinions? Let us know in the comments section. We would love to hear from you.


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