Anti-government protestors in Hong Kong have begun using powerful handheld lasers during their demonstration to repel the local authorities. According to several reports, the lasers, visible via their green and blue beams, were being used to confuse riot control officers, disable AI facial recognition cameras, and prevent people from recording.
Unfortunately, there were times when members of the press and photographers became victims of the protestors’ impromptu laser show, with many reporting damaged sensors in their cameras and phones due to the lasers. For context, shining a high-powered laser directly into a camera sensor can lead to a burn-in effect. This, in turn, leads to an image shot by a camera having dead pixels or worse, artifacts within an image or video.
Hong Kong protestors are on another level. Here they’re using lasers to avoid facial recognition cameras. A cyber war against Chinese artificial intelligence. pic.twitter.com/t1hIczr5Go
— Alessandra Bocchi (@alessabocchi) July 31, 2019
Needless to say, the Hong Kong Police aren’t amused by these lasers, categorising them as “offensive weapons”. To that end, they’ve even taken to physically tackling protestors who were in possession of a laser pointer. “Police are arresting people they catch doing this. They tackled one woman and she tossed her laser just at my feet to ditch the evidence. That laser somehow disappeared,” war correspondent Michael said to PetaPixel.
The damage is even worse for those using a mirrorless camera system; due to its lightweight and compact form factor over a DSLR, a mirrorless camera’s sensor is constantly exposed and has no protection. As a result, mirrorless cameras tend to be more vulnerable compared to DSLRs when it comes to high powered laser beams.
Prior to the incident, Yon also told Petapixel that the damage towards the camera of photojournalists is rather unintentional. He mentioned that the protestors “do not bother anyone who they see as a journalist as Hong Kongers clearly are winning the media war and are far too smart to jeopardize the massive press advantage”.