Glass with Superpowers

It would recognize images without any power sources.

Three-dimensional rendering of a face

UW–Madison engineers have devised a method to create pieces of “smart” glass that can recognize images without requiring any sensors or circuits or power sources. Spencer_Whalen/iStock

The sophisticated technology that powers face recognition in many smartphones could someday receive a high-tech upgrade that sounds — and looks — surprisingly low-tech.

This window to the future is none other than a piece of glass. UW–Madison engineers have devised a method to create pieces of “smart” glass that can recognize images without requiring any sensors or circuits or power sources.

“We’re using optics to condense the normal setup of cameras, sensors, and deep neural networks into a single piece of thin glass,” says Zongfu Yu, a UW associate professor of electrical and computer engineering.

Embedding artificial intelligence inside inert objects could open new frontiers for low-power electronics. Now, artificial intelligence gobbles up substantial computational resources (and battery life) every time you glance at your phone to unlock it with face ID. In the future, however, one piece of glass could recognize your face without using any power at all.

Published in the Winter 2019 issue

Tags: Research, Science

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