Gadget Freak of the Year Creates a Cheap Mine-Detection Tool

David Prutchi wins the top prize for a Design News Gadget at the Pacific Design and Manufacturing show in February 2017.

Sometimes cool gadgets double as public service equipment. The DOLPi polarimetric camera can help de-mining teams see if mines are hidden in natural terrain. While the mines are not detectable by the naked eye, the DOLPi is designed to detect human-made materials. At the Pacific Design and Manufacturing show in Anaheim, Calif. earlier this month. David Prutchi was awarded the Design News Gadget Freak of the Year for this cool and useful gadget.

Gadget Freak of the Year, DOLPi, polarimetric camera, David Prutchi
The DOLPi polarimetric camera is a Raspberry-Pi based device that lets users see things the naked eye cannot. (Image source: David Prutchi).  

Like many Design News readers, Prutchi tinkers for fun. “As a hobby, I like to do projects that haven’t been done, projects that are different from the norm. I like to do things that involve a little understanding of physics,” Prutchi told Design News . “I’ve been playing with ideas of light and things that you can see with the right light. One of my personal interests is photography and the photography of things we can’t see with our own eyes.”

There are entire wavelengths of light that are invisible to the human eye. Animals and insects have eyes that can filter light and polarize it to help see in the dark or hunt prey. Polarized light oscillates on a single plane, as opposed to getting scattered around like normal sunlight or lamp light.

There are polarization filters available for cameras to enhance or remove certain colors in a shot. Yet these filters are only the tip of the iceberg. If humans could see in polarized light, they would be able to detect things far beyond the capabilities of the naked eye.

For more on vision technology, check out the session, The Next Generation of Intelligent Sensors for Better Visualization, which will be held during  Advanced Design & Manufacturing  , March 29-30, 2017, in Cleveland.  Register today!

Prutchi created a polarimetric camera called the DOLPi and submitted it to the Design News'  Gadget Freak in 2016. The DOLPi is an affordable Raspberry Pi-based polarization camera that can be used to see polarized light. Users gain the ability to detect unseen objects like pollutants and hidden explosive devices such as mines. This project was a finalist in the 2015  Hack-A-Day competition .

You can find build instructions and a video showing how the DOLPi in use by clicking here .

Why Raspberry Pi?

Prutchi chose the Raspberry Pi for the camera’s CPU for a number or reasons. “Why Raspberry Pi? Because you can get it anywhere very cheaply. Second, it can produce a metric image,” said Prutchi. “When you’re doing image processing, you acquire pictures at different angels and make a color image with the information that is being collected. The Raspberry Pi has a great CPU. Plus, there are libraries with the capabilities you need in the tool box, and they’re free.”

Building the DOLPi – as opposed to buying a  polarimetric camera


Jerald Cogswell's picture
David, this is a fantastic project. Princess Diana's project was cleaning up land mines. She would have loved your device. I look forward to future Design News articles apprising us of the work being enabled by this device around the world. Just a nit: The word for weaponry is "ordnance" not "ordinance." They're different words.

What a great project and approach to putting it to use. I'm curious what is it that the device senses about disturbed earth and how much does time passing effects its ability to detect.

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