This is really cool! I came across this project on Kickstarter a few months ago and it looks like they now have a functioning prototype.
How does it work? From my understanding most smartphone cameras use a CMOS type sensor – which is sensitive to both UV and IR wavelengths. In order to create images that match what we can see, special filters are applied to filter out the UV and IR. Humans can’t perceive UV or IR, but other animals can — like the damselfish!
So the Sunscreenr seems to just be a smartphone camera without the UV filter! That means that anything we apply to our skin that absorbs light in the UV spectrum will show up as darker on the device.
The team at Sunscreenr recently took it to Mashable for a demo and there’s a video of it in action below:
The projected price is $109 USD, and the creators say if it is ever mass produced it could go down to $20 USD.
Personally, I think I would buy one at the $20 to $30 USD price-point. While it is useful, it won’t be able to catch an important aspect of sunscreen – which is the density or how thickly it’s applied.
It’d be great if someone could invent a camera that could measure how much UV is being absorbed – but I don’t think that exists yet.
I’m also waiting for the day where smart mirrors because more ubiquitous – imagine a mirror that can show you where you’ve applied your sunscreen and how much!
People are already DIY-ing their own smart mirrors, so hopefully the day that putting on sunscreen is an exercise in pure elegance is near!