Disrupting the Global Art Market Using Space Technology

Last week, the Czech company InsightART introduced the RToo – a digital scanner designed to analyse artwork using particle detectors. A reduced version of the same detector is also being used by NASA at the International Space Station (ISS). InsightART also announced an investment made by the Air Ventures Fund. The RToo, according to the InsightART, significantly expands the possibilities of current X-ray technologies. The scanner produces not only colour X-ray images but, also makes it possible to distinguish the composition of material in a non-invasive manner. Technological innovation can completely replace globally used methods of art analysis and thanks to the “smart” pixels of the X-ray detector, RToo is able to scan in colour at high resolution above 100 megapixels and is fully digital.

Additionally, it can distinguish the material composition of paintings throughout the image, without requiring invasive sampling. The scanner uses robotic arms, giving great flexibility in imaging artwork from all available angles, thereby expanding the scanning process to sculptures or antiques. Particle detectors are a new technology that is only a few years old and is only commercially used in selected laboratories. “RToo uses the latest technology that exists,” says Josef Uher, CTO InsightART (in the opening photograph).

InsightART is a spin-off start-up of the Czech-Finnish company, Advacam. Advacam focuses on research & development (R&D) in the field of sensors, radiation cameras and related areas, and is also a partner of Swiss CERN. A smaller version of the InsightART detector is also used by NASA at the ISS. Thanks to this, InsightART is among several Czech start-ups selected for support by The European Space Agency (ESA) space incubator.

Struggles against counterfeits have lasted for centuries.

Jiri Lauterkranc (in the picture below), restaurateur and co-founder of InsightART stated: “Our scanner provides restorers, technologists, and art historians information that will help reveal the inner structure of artwork, which is important for distinguishing the original from counterfeit. The technology used by RToo has a great future in the field of artwork exploration and it is only a matter of time before it becomes a standard. InsightART wants to be there.”

During the presentation of the new technology, InsightART announced the acquisition of an investment from the Air Ventures Fund, however, neglected to specify the amount. ” We are excited about the InsightART product that brings the latest particle physics into the authentication and art restoration industry. It’s not just about protecting investors, but also protecting the cultural heritage.” said Václav Pavlečka, CEO of Air Ventures.

Pavlečka also believes in InsightART’s market potential. Looking at the statistics, there is a correlation of thirty per cent of paintings costing over a million dollars (including auction deals) with fifty per cent probability of them being a forgery.

Global plans

There are plans for RToo entering the global market in the near future, waiting for the opportune moment while InsightART’s R&D department continues to advance their technology further. The aim is to create a multimodal device that will include other methods used in art analysis (XRF, UV luminescence, infrared reflection, etc.). “We want to concentrate on expanding the development of this technology and gradually introduce the instrument into the world art market. Our next step is to present RToo to the public at the end of April in London,” said Jan Sohar, CEO of InsightART. “We are already working with international institutions and we are talking about using technology. In addition to the London branch, we can imagine branching out to New York, Paris, maybe even in Tokyo,” added Sohar.

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