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China develops mini-camera to scan crowds for suicide bombers

Chinese scientists have developed a mini-camera that can scan the crowd for highly stressed individuals, in a bid to prevent suicide bombing, media reports said today.

A research team led by Chen Tong, associate professor at Southwest University in Chongqing developed a ‘stress sensor’ that can help the police to spot suicide bombers by capturing the stress levels of people, Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reported.

“The sensor measures the amount of oxygen in blood across exposed areas of a body, such as the face. The higher the mental stress, the higher the blood oxygenation,” it said.

“The readings of the device may not be always reliable. For example, with enough practice, a person can learn to control their heartbeat,” the report added.

The technology comes amid heightened fears over security in China after the country witnessed brazen terror attacks by native Uygur separatists in the northwestern Xinjiang region recently.

“They all looked and behaved as ordinary people but their level of mental stress must have been extremely high before they launched their attacks.

“Our technology can detect such people, so law enforcement officers can take precautions and prevent these tragedies,” Chen said about his invention.

Talking about the functionality of the device, Chen said that “officers looking through the device at a crowd would see a mental ‘stress bar’ above each person’s head and the suspects highlighted with a red face”.

“Laboratory tests of the technology had yielded encouraging results,” Chen added.

The device maker also rued about the biggest obstacle of the invention as “acquiring the remote data.”

“Security officers, for instance, deployed in a busy bus station would need to filter a tremendous amount of data and process it in a short amount of time. Such computing power is not available in smartphone-sized devices,” Chen said.

The invention has also sparked a controversy with the critics raising concerns over its misuse by the government.

“The technology can be used on terrorists, but harmless people such as petitioners and protesters could be the target as well. I would feel uncomfortable and tense if a police officer stared at me through strange goggles,” the media report quoted Li Jiancheng, a resident in Shangha as saying.

Responding to the allegation, Chen said that his team would not let their technology out of the lab for commercial use until the laws are in place to regulate it.

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