Innovation of the Week

This tiny device knows when you're looking at it

It's somewhere between a camera and a motion sensor

The Glance microchip by Qualcomm.

"Qualcomm wants your gadgets to look out for you," said Stacey Higginbotham at TechnologyReview​.com. The mobile chipmaker is working on a tiny, low-power module that could add computer vision technology to everyday devices, from toys to home appliances. The technology, called Glance, "isn't quite a camera, but it can gather more detailed information than a simple motion sensor."

Courtesy image.

It contains a lens, an image sensor, and a low-power processor that allow it to detect people and recognize specific gestures. It's cheaper and uses far less energy than a built-in camera would, making some smartphone security features more practical. Phone makers would like to use iris scans to unlock phones, for instance, "but a device's camera can't be constantly active without draining the battery." Glance offers a low-power way to detect when a person is facing the screen, triggering the camera to turn on and conduct a scan.

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