Visualising skin secrets


New technology unlocks the ability to analyse and understand the secrets of our skin

Today’s imaging and sensing technology can reveal important information about our bodies – from our bone structure to our brain activity. But what about tapping into the health and wellness information hidden within our skin?

Product design and development firm Cambridge Consultants has harnessed this possibility with a multispectral imaging technology demonstrator called Skintuition. It offers a non-invasive, non-contact way of capturing, understanding and visualising the secrets of our skin – to enable a new generation of truly personalised care products.

Equipped with off-the-shelf camera technology and integrated algorithms, Skintuition enables users to analyse and observe their skin in greater detail, providing valuable insights into its health, condition and dermatological status.

Using a low-cost, widely available camera like the ones in most smartphones – aided by a ring of LEDs – Skintuition controls the illumination around a camera to produce images of the skin’s surface with more colours than a typical camera could produce. As a result, the system is able to expose what is under the skin’s surface, including blood, oxygen saturation and melanin. By embedding the platform into a commercial product such as a bathroom mirror, Skintuition can gather images of the user’s skin and alert them to changes in its condition through their smartphone.

The system could tell a user to apply a higher SPF sunscreen if it detects high levels of melanin, for example, or it could show them exactly where they have missed a spot on their face when applying sunscreen. Most importantly, it has the ability to track how levels change over time – providing the user with a holistic and long-term view of their skin health.

The platform technology is also capable of integration within existing personal care systems, and can recommend specific products using the data it uncovers – bringing an element of personalisation to existing skincare and cosmetics routines.

“Imagine if your bathroom mirror could pinpoint trends in how your skin pigmentation changes, encouraging you to adjust your personal care routine to better cater to what your skin needs at any given time,” said Ruth Thomson, head of consumer product development at Cambridge Consultants. “From monitoring for deeper changes in health to matching the perfect shade of foundation to your skin, the multispectral imaging we’ve developed provides countless ways to personalise the skincare experience.”

The low-cost cameras and imaging tools used to create Skintuition have applications that can reach far beyond the personal care sector. By manipulating the LEDs’ illumination surrounding the camera, the technology can be tailored for use in different scenarios – even within other industries, such as agriculture. It could provide a low-cost alternative to hyperspectral imaging to allow for detection of water uptake by plants, for example, or warn of the spread of disease through changes in leaf pigmentation that are not visible to the naked eye.

“We’ve taken existing, inexpensive hardware components and found new and exciting ways to use them,” said Thomson. “At its core, Skintuition is simply an imaging solution that is able to expose substances that are invisible to the naked eye. By making it low-cost, we’ve given it mass-market appeal – opening the door for this type of technology to apply its ‘intuition’ to not just skincare but nearly any other visualisation use case.”

Cambridge Consultants will be demonstrating its Skintuition technology at the CES 2017, January 5-8, in Las Vegas at the Sands Expo, Halls A-C, stand 44136.

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