News Column

Patent Issued for Imaging Enclosure Apparatus and Methods

May 27, 2014



By a News Reporter-Staff News Editor at Life Science Weekly -- According to news reporting originating from Alexandria, Virginia, by NewsRx journalists, a patent by the inventor Feke, Gilbert D. (Windham, NH), filed on February 4, 2013, was published online on May 13, 2014 (see also Viewpoint Laboratories, LLC.).

The assignee for this patent, patent number 8724979, is Viewpoint Laboratories, LLC. (Putnam, CT).

Reporters obtained the following quote from the background information supplied by the inventors: "Enclosures have been adapted for imaging objects under controlled illumination. One type of conventional enclosure has an opaque barrier whose purpose is to partially or totally separate light related to the imaging activity inside the enclosure from ambient light unrelated to the imaging activity outside the enclosure. Such enclosures may provide additional utility for the imaging activity. An example of a known enclosure with an opaque barrier for totally separating light inside the enclosure from light outside the enclosure is a hood. Such a hood typically comprises an opaque material, for example metal or plastic, that encompasses and defines a volume for containing an object to be imaged; a first opening formed for abutting the hood to a platform for supporting the object to be imaged; a second opening formed for exposing the object to an imaging device, for example a camera; and a fixture for mounting the imaging device in a position that enables the imaging device to image the object. The first and second openings are typically formed to serve their respective functions while preserving the integrity of the barrier, for example by employing compressible light-tight gaskets capable of providing a light barrier at the physical interfaces between the openings and components in physical contact with the openings. For example, in U.S. Pat. No. 4,657,655 which describes an apparatus for electrophoretically separating, visualizing and photographing DNA fragments in agarose gels, a camera assembly includes a hood which serves the primary purpose of light separation. The hood blocks ambient light and isolates the light related to the imaging activity inside the enclosure. In this example this is ultraviolet light from a transilluminator used for exciting ethidium bromide-stained DNA fragments and the resultant fluorescence light from the excited DNA fragments, detected by an instant film camera. Such separation is necessary because the ambient light would otherwise compromise imaging of the DNA fragments by adding unwanted background signal to the image. Further, it is desirable to shield an operator of such an apparatus from ultraviolet light which would otherwise escape into the immediate surroundings of the apparatus. Additionally the hood serves a secondary purpose as a positioning mechanism for configuring the instant film camera in an optimal spatial relationship with respect to the agarose gel supported by the transilluminator, as well as serving other purposes, such as providing a mechanism for activating a switch for fluorescent lamps in the transilluminator when the camera is properly placed thereupon.

"In one known hood implementation, the barrier is continuous so that the object must be placed upon the platform first, and then the hood must be placed upon the platform, such that the hood encloses the object, thereby completing the barrier for imaging activity. This implementation has significant ergonomic limitations, since repeated placement and removal of the hood is necessary for sequentially imaging multiple objects.

"In another known implementation of a hood, the barrier has a hatch door positioned in a front area of the enclosure facing an operator. This allows the operator to view inside the enclosure and insert an object along the viewing perspective. The hood can be placed upon the platform first, or even permanently, and then the hatch door can be opened for inserting the object and viewing the insertion of the object. The hood is finally closed for completing the barrier for imaging activity. Although the hatch door provides some improvement over the continuous barrier, this implementation is still subject to ergonomic limitations; it is often desirable for an operator of such apparatus to have unilateral or bilateral access to the void or volume into which the object is placed, for example to use one hand on one side, or two hands with one on each side for positioning, while viewing from the front area of the enclosure. Further, in the case where the hatch door is not removable from the enclosure, the hatch door requires clearance space for it to occupy in the open position. For example, if the hatch door opens by means of a hinge, the hatch door would typically open outward so that it occupies space exterior to the enclosure when in the open position. This is an inconvenience, although it may be preferable to having the hatch door open inward into the imaging area where it could interfere with the enclosed object. Alternately, if the hatch door opens using a slide rail, additional space is required to allow movement of the hatch door into a recess in the enclosure. The enclosure would need to be elongated in the direction of the slide rail to provide such a recess beyond the space required to enclose the object. Further, in the case where the hatch door is removable from the enclosure, then the hatch door requires accommodation for storage when removed.

"Another example of a known enclosure comprising an opaque barrier for separating light inside the enclosure from light outside the enclosure is a box. Such a box typically is formed using an opaque material, for example metal or plastic, that encompasses a volume containing an object to be imaged. A platform is integral or enclosed within the enclosure for supporting the object to be imaged. An aperture is formed for exposing the object to an imaging device, for example a camera. A fixture is provided for mounting the imaging device in a position that enables the imaging device to image the object. The device also has a door. The opening is typically formed to serve its function while preserving the integrity of the barrier, for example by employing compressible gaskets capable of providing a light barrier at the physical interface between the opening and components in physical contact with the opening. Further the door is typically formed to serve its function while preserving the integrity of the barrier when closed. Examples of imaging boxes are described in U.S. Pat. No. 6,775,567.

"In one known implementation of a box, the door is positioned in a front area of the enclosure facing an operator, for the operator to both view inside the enclosure and insert an object along the viewing perspective. This implementation can be difficult to work with, since it is often desirable for an operator of such apparatus to have unilateral or bilateral access to the volume into which the object is placed, for example to use one hand on one side, or two hands with one on each side, while viewing from the front area of the enclosure. Further, in the case where the door is not removable from the enclosure, the door undesirably requires space for it to occupy in the open position. For example, if the door opens by means of a hinge, the door would typically open outward so that it occupies space exterior to the enclosure in the open position, which is an inconvenience albeit preferred over the door opening inward into the volume where it could interfere with the enclosed object. Alternately, if the door opens by means of a slide rail providing movement of the door into a recess in the enclosure, then the enclosure would undesirably need to be elongated in the direction of the slide rail to provide such a recess beyond the space required to enclose the object. Further, in the case where the door is removable from the enclosure, then the door undesirably requires accommodation for storage when removed.

"Another example of a known enclosure comprising an opaque barrier for partially separating light inside the enclosure from light outside the enclosure is a slotted box. Such a slotted box is similar to the hood or box type enclosures described above, but provides a permanent opening for ergonomic insertion and removal of objects to be imaged, thereby obviating the need for removing and replacing the enclosure with respect to a platform or opening and closing a door. For example U.S. Pat. No. 3,774,046, related to a detector of counterfeit currency, describes such a box having a slot. Although the slot in U.S. Pat. No. 3,774,046 is formed to provide bilateral access to the volume into which the object is placed, for example to use two hands with one on each side, while viewing from the front area of the enclosure, a means for completely separating light inside the enclosure from light outside the enclosure is not provided.

"The platform for supporting the object to be imaged in known implementations of hood, box and slotted box enclosures is typically configured to be normal to a gravitational field so that the object is held in place by the force of gravity. The opening formed to expose the object to the imaging device in known implementations of hood, box and slotted box enclosures is typically substantially opposed to the platform for supporting the object so as to provide a direct line of sight for the imaging device to the object. Hence, the platform for supporting the object is typically located at the bottom of the enclosure and the imaging device is typically located at the top of the enclosure. The fixture for mounting the imaging device in known implementations of hood, box and slotted box enclosures typically provides rigid mounting of a camera or other type of imaging device.

"In one example of known imaging systems that include hood, box or slotted box enclosures, the imaging system includes an imaging device, such as a camera, and a separate display that is not integral to the imaging device. This display can be a computer monitor, for example, for viewing image data from the imaging device, as described in U.S. Pat. No. 6,775,567. In this example, the separate display provides an ergonomic advantage, as it may be positioned for viewing by an operator independent of the location of the imaging system and imaging device. However, such known imaging systems are subject to a limitation in that if the imaging device happened to include an on-board display integral to the device, as is common with state-of-the-art mobile devices such as smartphone devices, tablet devices and point-and-shoot digital camera devices, then the separate display would be redundant and hence add undesirable cost and complexity to the system. It would generally be advantageous if such imaging systems that included imaging devices with integral displays did not require separate displays for viewing image data from the imaging device. However, since the fixture for mounting the imaging device in known implementations of hood, box and slotted box enclosures typically provides rigid mounting, and since the imaging device is typically located at the top of the enclosure, the only options for the operator of such systems for viewing the captured image or image data on a display integral to the imaging device are either to view from above the imaging device or to remove the device. Viewing the captured image from above the device often requires the operator to be in an uncomfortable position because the imaging system is often located on a workbench and the enclosure is required to be sufficiently tall to enable the imaging device to focus on the object with a sufficiently large field of view. Removal of the imaging device from the fixture allows viewing the image data in a more comfortable position; however, removal of the imaging device is often undesirable because of the effort required to remove the imaging device and then reinstall it at a later time. Hence, it would be desirable to have an imaging device with an integral display that is more readily viewable.

"Examples of methods related to such enclosures include those related to counterfeit article detection, for example evaluation of the authenticity of banknotes, driver's licenses, passports, credit cards, bank checks, casino tokens, pill bottles, etc. Conventional detection methods typically require an operator to view the object within the enclosure and, either using memory or at best referring to a printed reference book, to make a judgment of the authenticity of the object. Due to the lack of adaptations of known enclosures for mobile devices, such methods are subject to limitations of not being able to readily use the features common in state-of-the-art mobile devices, such as imaging, computing power capable of pattern recognition, display, the ability to retrieve information from a remote server via a telecommunications network, and instant printing. It would be desirable for such methods to take advantage of the features of mobile devices."

In addition to obtaining background information on this patent, NewsRx editors also obtained the inventor's summary information for this patent: "The present invention addresses the aforementioned limitations of conventional imaging apparatus by providing apparatus and methods related to imaging at least one enclosed object. According to one aspect of the present invention, there is provided an imaging apparatus for imaging an object, the imaging apparatus comprising: an enclosure chassis that defines an enclosed imaging volume and that provides an imaging aperture to a camera apparatus that mounts against the chassis and that further provides at least a first lateral access opening for access to the object; and a light-obstructing gasket that is coupled to the enclosure chassis and that has at least a first foldable lateral access leaf that folds to a first position, against the first lateral access opening to block ambient light through the first lateral access opening, and that folds away from the first lateral access opening to a second position to allow access to the object. The imaging apparatus separates light inside the enclosed imaging volume from ambient light, unrelated to the imaging activity, outside the enclosed imaging volume. The enclosed imaging volume is capable of containing at least one enclosed object. The imaging apparatus further has a surface for providing support for the at least one enclosed object. The surface may be an integral interior surface or otherwise enclosed within the enclosure chassis. Alternately, the surface may be separate from the enclosure chassis and further provide support for the enclosure chassis having an opening formed for abutting the enclosure chassis to the surface. The camera apparatus has integral optics and imaging sensing mechanism positioned on a rear surface of the camera apparatus. The camera apparatus may further comprise an integral display, for viewing images acquired by the camera apparatus, positioned on a front surface of the camera apparatus. The integral display may comprise a touch screen control interface. The surface for providing support for the at least one enclosed object may comprise a platform having a light source that is energizable for illuminating the enclosed imaging volume through an illumination opening in the enclosure chassis. The light-obstructing gasket may further obstruct light entry between the enclosure chassis and the platform. The imaging apparatus may further comprise one or more enclosed light sources. The one or more enclosed light sources may be positioned to illuminate the at least one enclosed object from the same side as the camera apparatus. The one or more enclosed light sources may comprise at least two enclosed light sources wherein the at least two enclosed light sources comprise different wavelength profiles. The light-obstructing gasket may be formed from a compressible material. The enclosure chassis may further provide a second lateral access opening for access to the object and the light-obstructing gasket may further comprise a second foldable lateral access leaf that folds removably against the second access opening. At least one foldable lateral access leaf may lie against the surface for supporting the enclosure chassis when in the second position. At least one foldable lateral access leaf may be magnetically attracted to the first position against the first lateral access opening. The enclosure chassis may further include at least one magnetic or ferromagnetic member and at least one foldable lateral access leaf may include at least one magnetic member for magnetic attachment to the at least one magnetic or ferromagnetic member of the enclosure chassis. Alternately, at least one foldable lateral access leaf may include at least one magnetic or ferromagnetic member and the enclosure chassis may further include at least one magnetic member for magnetic attachment to the at least one magnetic or ferromagnetic member of the at least one foldable lateral access leaf. The at least one foldable lateral access leaf may further comprise one or more stiffener elements that are formed from a magnet or from a ferromagnetic material. The second position may comprise a removed position wherein the light-obstructing gasket is removed from the enclosure chassis. The first and second lateral access leaves may comprise two bilaterally opposed lateral access leaves. The surface for supporting the enclosure chassis may comprise a ferromagnetic member and the light-obstructing gasket may further comprise at least one magnetic member for magnetic attachment of the light-obstructing gasket to the surface. The enclosure chassis may further comprise a front viewport enabling viewing of the at least one enclosed object from the front of the enclosure chassis, wherein the front viewport may be selectively obstructed by an obstruction such as an additional light-obstructing gasket. The imaging apparatus may comprise one or more hinge elements that allow pivoting of the camera apparatus against or away from a surface of the enclosure chassis, for example for increasing the comfort related to viewing an image of the object on the integral display or for aiding the docking or undocking of the camera apparatus from the fixture. The one or more hinge elements may comprise one or more friction hinges. The imaging apparatus may further comprise a receiving member sized and shaped to conform to the camera apparatus. The receiving member may comprise a case. The case may include a lockable security case. The imaging apparatus may further include a mirror, internal to the enclosure chassis, for folding an imaging path of the camera apparatus. The surface for supporting the at least one object may further include at least one illumination indicator within a field of view of the camera apparatus, wherein the at least one illumination indicator is interpretable by the camera apparatus for determining whether the at least one enclosed light source is energized.

"The present invention further relates to methods of using a counterfeit article detection apparatus adapted for mobile devices. One exemplary method has a series of steps. A first step of the series of steps includes positioning at least one object in a field of view of a camera integral to a mobile device. For example, the at least one object may be a banknote, driver's license, passport, credit card, a check, casino token, or pill bottle, and include both a reproduced artwork printed using ink visible under visible illumination such as white light, and either the presence or absence of a fluorescent authentication substance, such as fluorescent artwork or a fluorescent strip, visible by means of fluorescence under ultraviolet illumination. Optionally, at least one illumination indicator may also be positioned within the field of view of the camera alongside the at least one object. A second step of the series of steps comprises illuminating the at least one object, and optionally the at least one illumination indicator, with visible illumination such as white light. A third step of the series of steps comprises imaging the at least one object, and optionally the at least one illumination indicator, under visible illumination with the camera. An optional fourth step of the series of steps comprises interpreting the illumination indicator to achieve an interpretation result corresponding to visible illumination, wherein the interpretation is automatically achieved by an image processor, for example integral to either the mobile device or a remote server. A fifth step of the series of steps comprises recognizing the at least one object by means of image recognition, wherein the recognizing may be by the naked eye or alternately automatically achieved by the image processor by means of the interpretation result. An optional sixth step of the series of steps comprises simultaneously displaying a current reflectance image of the at least one object and a reference reflectance image of the at least one object, wherein the reference image is retrieved from an archive by means of triggering a retrieval sequence based on the recognizing of the at least one object. A seventh step of the series of steps comprises illuminating the at least one object, and optionally the at least one illumination indicator, with ultraviolet illumination to enable the at least one object, and optionally the at least one illumination indicator, to fluoresce, wherein the at least one object fluoresces if the fluorescent substance is present. An eighth step of the series of steps comprises imaging the at least one object, and optionally the at least one illumination indicator, under the ultraviolet illumination with the camera. An optional ninth step of the series of steps comprises interpreting the at least one illumination indicator to achieve an interpretation result corresponding to ultraviolet illumination, wherein the interpretation is automatically achieved by an image processor. An optional tenth step of the series of steps comprises recognizing the at least one object by means of image recognition, wherein the recognizing may be by the naked eye or alternately automatically achieved by the image processor by means of the interpretation result. An optional eleventh step of the series of steps comprises simultaneously displaying a current fluorescence image of the at least one object and a reference fluorescence image of the at least one object, wherein the reference image is retrieved from an archive by means of triggering a retrieval sequence based on the recognizing of the at least one object. An optional twelfth step of the series of steps comprises judging the authenticity of the at least one object by comparing the current fluorescence image of the at least one object against the reference fluorescence image of the at least one object, wherein the judging may be by the naked eye or automatically achieved by the image processor. An optional thirteenth step of the series of steps comprises informing an operator of the counterfeit article detection system regarding the authenticity, or lack thereof, of the at least one object, wherein the informing may be visible, audible, haptic, or any combination thereof.

"These and other objects, features, and advantages of the present invention will become apparent to those skilled in the art upon a reading of the following detailed description when taken in conjunction with the drawings wherein there is shown and described an illustrative embodiment of the invention."

For more information, see this patent: Feke, Gilbert D.. Imaging Enclosure Apparatus and Methods. U.S. Patent Number 8724979, filed February 4, 2013, and published online on May 13, 2014. Patent URL: http://patft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO2&Sect2=HITOFF&p=40&u=%2Fnetahtml%2FPTO%2Fsearch-bool.html&r=1969&f=G&l=50&co1=AND&d=PTXT&s1=20140513.PD.&OS=ISD/20140513&RS=ISD/20140513

Keywords for this news article include: DNA Research, Viewpoint Laboratories LLC.

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Source: Life Science Weekly