Google Glass app noninvasively analyzes plant health in seconds

February 10, 2015, University of California, Los Angeles
The Google Glass app and illuminator allow researchers unit to analyze chlorophyll concentration in a leaf without harming the plant. Credit: UCLA

Scientists from UCLA's California NanoSystems Institute have developed a Google Glass app that, when paired with a handheld device, enables the wearer to quickly analyze the health of a plant without damaging it.

The app analyzes the concentration of chlorophyll—the substance in plants responsible for converting sunlight into energy. Reduced chlorophyll production in plants can indicate degradation of water, soil or air quality.

One current method for measuring chlorophyll concentration requires removing some of the plant's leaves, dissolving them in a chemical solvent and then performing the chemical analysis. With the new system, leaves are examined and then left functional and intact.

The research, led by Aydogan Ozcan, associate director of the UCLA California NanoSystems Institute and Chancellor's Professor of Electrical Engineering and Bioengineering at the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science, was published online by the Royal Society of Chemistry journal Lab on a Chip.

The system developed by Ozcan's lab uses an image captured by the Google Glass camera to measure the chlorophyll's light absorption in the green part of the optical spectrum.

The main body of the handheld illuminator unit can be produced using 3-D printing and it runs on three AAA batteries; with a small circuit board added, it can be assembled for less than $30. Held behind the leaf, facing the Glass wearer, the illuminator emits light that enhances the leaf's transmission image contrast, indoors or out, regardless of environmental lighting conditions.

The wearer can control the device using the Google Glass touch control pad or with the voice command, "Okay, Glass, image a leaf." The Glass photographs the leaf and sends an enhanced image wirelessly to a remote server, which processes the data from the image and sends back a chlorophyll concentration reading, all in less than 10 seconds.

"One pleasant surprise we found was that we used five leaf species to calibrate our system, and that this same calibration worked to accurately detect chlorophyll concentration in 15 different leaf species without having to recalibrate the app," Ozcan said. "This will allow a scientist to get readings walking from plant to plant in a field of crops, or look at many different plants in a drought-plagued area and accumulate plant health data very quickly."

The Google Glass app and illuminator unit could replace relatively costly and bulky laboratory instruments. Ozcan said that the convenience, speed and cost-effectiveness of the new system could aid scientists studying the effects of droughts and climate change in remote areas.

Ozcan's laboratory specializes in computational imaging, sensing and diagnostic devices for various mobile-health and telemedicine applications. Its previous work includes quick analysis of food samples for allergens, water samples for heavy metals and bacteria and cell counts in blood samples. The research team has devised a way to use Google Glass to process diagnostic test results, and an app and attachment that converts a smartphone into a fluorescence microscope for imaging single viruses and individual DNA molecules.

Explore further: Engineers detect and measure individual DNA molecules using smartphone microscope

More information: "Quantification of Plant Chlorophyll Content Using Google Glass" Lab Chip, 2015, Accepted Manuscript DOI: 10.1039/C4LC01279H

Related Stories

Google Glass technology less reliable than paper ECG

January 20, 2015

(HealthDay)—Google Glass technology for remote electrocardiogram (ECG) interpretation is significantly less reliable than paper ECG, according to a study published in the Feb. 1 issue of The American Journal of Cardiology.

Researchers invent portable device for common kidney tests

August 23, 2013

(Medical Xpress)—A lightweight and field-portable device invented at UCLA that conducts kidney tests and transmits data through a smartphone attachment may significantly reduce the need for frequent office visits by people ...

Blast from the past gives wheat a boost

June 11, 2014

(Phys.org) —Half a century after conducting a plant experiment as part of his undergraduate Honours project, Adjunct Professor John Hamblin from The University of Western Australia's Institute of Agriculture (IOA) expects ...

Recommended for you

Bio-renewable process could help 'green' plastic

January 19, 2018

When John Wesley Hyatt patented the first industrial plastic in 1869, his intention was to create an alternative to the elephant tusk ivory used to make piano keys. But this early plastic also sparked a revolution in the ...

Simulations show how atoms behave inside self-healing cement

January 19, 2018

Researchers at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) have developed a self-healing cement that could repair itself in as little as a few hours. Wellbore cement for geothermal applications has a life-span of only 30 ...

Looking to the sun to create hydrogen fuel

January 18, 2018

When Lawrence Livermore scientist Tadashi Ogitsu leased a hydrogen fuel-cell car in 2017, he knew that his daily commute would change forever. There are no greenhouse gases that come out of the tailpipe, just a bit of water ...

A new polymer raises the bar for lithium-sulfur batteries

January 18, 2018

Lithium-sulfur batteries are promising candidates for replacing common lithium-ion batteries in electric vehicles since they are cheaper, weigh less, and can store nearly double the energy for the same mass. However, lithium-sulfur ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Bongstar420
not rated yet Feb 10, 2015
So my eyes don't work? I thought this would yield things like N and Fe content rather than just chlorophyll.

I'm not really into it anyways. It's just one step closer to less knowledgeable and skilled people doing things they probably should defer to a better operator. I'm already annoyed at the lack of standing amongst the farmers as there are way too many dumbasses living off the back of agricultural advisers.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.