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Newest moonshot from Google’s X: A scanner for skin health

closeup of woman's face with allergies
June 28, 2021

Inventors from X Development, a moonshot incubator set up by Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, are pushing forward technology that can assess people’s skin health using an image capture system and machine learning.

The method is outlined in a patent application for a hyperspectral scanning system. It employs sets of skin data – present and historical – from an image capture system, at least one of which is an ultraviolet (UV) image of a user’s skin. A machine learning model is employed and can be trained to compare a user’s current skin condition with historical data.

Newest moonshot from Google’s X: A scanner for skin health

One potential function of the technology is quantifying bacteria present on the user’s skin. Brightness and dust filters are applied to captured images to highlight portions of the skin that exhibit UV fluorescence. An algorithm then determines which portions are UV fluorescent due to bacteria.

The system can also check for skin pigmentation and redness. It involves comparing against a person’s historical skin data and measuring for skin segments’ color, pallor, or redness. This feature may also work to quantify the user’s recent sun exposure. Adverse effects of overexposure to the sun range from temporary skin damage to immune suppression and even cancer.

Other aspects of skin health the invention might examine are roughness and collagen content. Over a third of the body’s protein content is collagen, which helps make skin firm and supple, besides aiding in cell renewal. To check for this important protein, the scanning system looks for grayscale intensity in every pixel of every skin segment. A common symptom of collagen deficiency is skin aging.

The inventors state that their technique would not only enable individuals to readily measure their skin condition, but also generate predictive output regarding their future skin health. This may include the types and locations of skin conditions the user is likely to experience. Also mentioned is the possibility of the system sending these predictions to a person’s dermatologist for early treatment or prevention.

X Development describes its moonshots as “far-out, sci-fi sounding technologies.” The company has incubated hundreds of projects, many of which have gone on to become independent businesses. Its highlighted inventions range from helper robots to an internet without cables.

X Dvelopment LLC’s patent application, “Hyperspectral Scanning To Determine Skin Health”, was filed with the USPTO on December 6, 2019. It was published on June 10, 2021. The listed inventors are Anupama Thubagere Jagadeesh and Brian Lance Hie.

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