Dynamsoft Facilitates MIT Research for Embedding Invisible AR Markers and Barcodes Using Low-Cost Infrared-Based 3D Printing

Mar 02, 2022
Dynamsoft Facilitates MIT Research for Embedding Invisible AR Markers and Barcodes Using Low-Cost Infrared-Based 3D Printing

A 4th-year Ph.D. student, Mustafa Doga Dogan, in the MIT Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, came up with the idea of invisible machine-readable labels that identify and track objects. Dogan, along with other MIT research scientists, calls these InfraredTags. These tags are embedded within the interior of the objects using standard 3D printers. The fact that they are invisible to the naked eye makes them unobtrusive. Besides, these tags are more long-lasting than the standard barcodes, which can be removed or detached or become otherwise unreadable over time.

These tags are 3D-printed using customized plastic opaque to visible light but transparent or translucent to IR light. Hence, an infrared-based camera can easily read these tags. And to decode these tags, a simple, low-cost infrared camera is attached to existing mobile devices with the Dynamsoft Barcode Reader. However, the additional hardware will not be necessary in future as many new smartphones now have an in-built infrared camera.

The abstract idea of these tags came from digital files with accompanying embedded information about the files. Dogan thought something similar could also be done with physical objects. So he used a smartphone camera that worked with the infrared (IR) range and Dynamsoft Barcode Reader software to scan the embedded codes.

The next step was to fabricate the tags with a suitable variety of materials used with infrared cameras. Further, Dogan’s team experimented with making tags on a 3-D printer. The first option was to create substitutes of zeros and barcodes by carving out air gaps on the plastic material. The other option was to use two layers of plastic- one that transmits the IR light and the additional layer on which the code is embedded- that is opaque.

Several prototypes were created by Dogan & his collaborators, including mugs with barcodes engraved inside the container walls, a Wi-Fi router prototype with invisible tags that reveal the network name or password, and a simple wheel-shaped video game controller, with no electronic components at all. Instead, it had a barcode (ArUco marker) inside.

Along with Dynamsoft, the research was supported by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Research Fellowship. It will be presented at the ACM CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems in New Orleans in May this year. Read more about MIT’s research on InfraredTags: Embedding Invisible AR Markers and Barcodes Using Low-Cost, Infrared-Based 3D Printing and Imaging Tools here.

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