When I was a kid, we had a periscope you could make out of a cardboard tube and two small hand mirrors. We used it to peek above tables we were hiding under, or around corners, and spy on our friends or play varieties of hide and seek games. Now there's a video camera system that can do the same, and record what it sees with what amounts to very, very fast frame rates.
The video system, called Cornar, was created by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Media Lab, led by associate professor Ramesh Raskar. It can look beyond the line of sight, as well as peer around corners. Instead of using an angled mirror at each end of the periscope to reflect and redirect light, Cornar deploys ordinary surfaces that aren't usually considered to be reflective, like walls, doors, or floors.
Using a femtosecond laser, the Cornar video camera system bounces light off of walls and floors to "see" around corners and beyond the line of sight. (Source: MIT)
Conar is based on a femtosecond laser, which is wicked fast, and a picosecond detector. Bursts of light generated by the laser reflect off of multiple surfaces and reconstruct a 3D image.
The laser fires femtosecond bursts of light at a surface, for example, the wall opposite the doorway of a room. The light reflects off of that surface and into the room, where it bounces around, reflecting off of many more surfaces and acting as a flash. Eventually, the bursts re-emerge and strike a detector that takes measurements every few picoseconds. By sampling light at picosecond levels of accuracy, the researchers say they can reconstruct shapes with centimeter levels of accuracy. (You can watch a video demonstrating this process here.)
The system repeats this entire process multiple times, bouncing bursts of light off of several different spots on the wall, so groups of bursts enter the room at several different angles. The detector also measures the returning light at their different returning different angles.
Yes, this reminded me of the Lytro camera as well. The Lytro camera allows setting of the range of focus with the picture data, through software, after the picture is taken. This concept allows reconstruction of laser topology reflected back into the scene. Also reminds me of the laser-based window listening devices, what will they think of next?
bob from maine, the article gives links to two videos worth watching, one short and one more detailed, on how this technology works. Military surveillance and security are definitely some apps this could be used in, and probably lots more we haven't thought of yet that this will make possible.
New technology solves old problem with better resolution! Seeing beyond the electromagnetic horizon. Reminds me of over the horizon Radar popular during the Cold War era. Different wavelengths of electromagnetic spectrum but somewhat similar idea. Reflect off of the ionisphere and listen for back scatter to provide a target echo.
Do I understand correctly? The laser emits a light beam which scatters, then the camera 'averages' the returned photons to memorize what is there. When something new is added, the returning photons take a different time of flight and thus the shape and position of the 'new' thing is derived and displayed. Depending on the acquisition speed of the camera/computer, this would have a great usefullness in any number of internal/external building security, military field surveylance, etc.. A really neat concept.
Laser scanning is used everywhere to define the real-world and convert it to 3D point cloud data that can be used in plant design, architectural remodeling, accident reconstruction, crime scene reconstruction, etc.
The way the technology works today, you have to set up the tripod in a few different places with targets that can be matched by the software to get a complete picture of the area. It works pretty good, but consider one setup, one scan and you're done. Amazing.
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