Want to use your iPhone to find land mines? There’s an app for that

“Computer scientists at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) have designed an elegant system that ties in smartphones to assist humanitarian de-miners by augmenting the information supplied by their metal detectors,” Rebecca Hersher reports for The Harvard Gazette. “Their system, known as pattern enhancement tool for assisting land mine sensing (PETALS), and which will be presented at this week’s Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, takes de-mining advances in a new direction.”

“‘We want to support people in the field with minimal invasiveness. Without changing their sweeping style, without giving them new procedures, this technology allows them to better visualize what they are detecting,’ explained SEAS researcher Lahiru Jayatilaka, who is working with Assistant Professor of Computer Science Krzysztof Gajos at SEAS, James Staszewski of Carnegie Mellon University, and Luca Bertuccelli of Massachusetts Institute of Technology,” Hersher reports.

“In the field, de-miners use a repetitive sweeping motion to systematically cover small sections of ground looking for land mines. When the metal detector passes over a metallic object, it beeps. Expert de-miners are able to visualize the auditory feedback of the metal detector, creating in their heads an image of the object’s outline underground,” Hersher reports. “Land mines, with their circular construction and trigger pin, have an ovoid signature. The system designed by Jayatilaka and Gajos shows one red dot for every beep of the metal detector. With passes over a buried object, the picture shows an increasingly complete outline of the object’s shape, giving the de-miner an evermore detailed picture of what may be buried there.”

Read more in the full article, which has a photo of an Apple iPhone being used to image sweeps of a metal detector, here.

[Attribution: TUAW. Thanks to MacDailyNews Readers “Fred Mertz” and “qka” for the heads up.]


  1. Talk about a bad time to get a call on your iPhone!

    “Hello! Yes… Yes, I’m kind of busy right now. If you must know, I’m standing in the middle of an active mine field and I need my iPhone to keep me from being blown to bits. Yes, yes, I’ll pick up milk, now may I please return to detecting these dangerous explosive devices?”


  2. iPhone is a line of Internet- and multimedia-enabled smartphones designed and marketed by Apple Inc. The first iPhone was unveiled by Apple CEO Steve Jobs on January 9, 2007,[1] and released on June 29, 2007.

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