The detector's multi-bounce reflection data is used to reconstruct the shape of objects that are visible from the position of the wall, but not from the position of the camera. The duration of each laser burst is so short that the system can gauge how far the bursts have traveled by measuring the time it takes them to reach the detector. The Conar system compares the different times at which the returning light arrives at different parts of the detector, uses multi-path analysis to crunch the data, and constructs an image of the rooms geometry. (You can watch a video lecture discussing the technology in more detail here.)
Conar's technology has initially produced recognizable 3D images of a wooden figurine and images of foam cutouts that are placed outside the femtosecond laser camera's line of sight.
Eventually, the researchers expect the technology could lead to imaging systems that help emergency responders evaluate dangerous or unknown environments, or collision avoidance systems for vehicles and vehicle navigation systems that can negotiate blind turns. Other possible applications include robot navigation systems for industrial environments and instruments that can investigate conditions in cramped spaces inside machinery with moving parts.
Pretty cool technology. I could see something like this coming into play for first responders to disasters like the Chilean mine incident or even for fire fighters. I'm admittedly not that up to date on vision systems, but I am surprised that there isn't more technology out like this already.
This reminds me of the Lytro light-field camera. A clever detector arrangement collects lots of data and through the majic of software and image can be reconstructed that would not have been possible before.
Another compelling example of physics and discovery coming out of the Media lab at MIT.As "apresher" mused about commercial viability, I'm not so sure this is a niche market, but I definitely agree that this technology is in its infancy and has great potential to grow into something fantastic.
For a period of time about 10 years ago, I had the exciting responsibility to visit and watch media lab presentations, then take ideas like this one back into Advance Development for product design at Motorola. I was tasked with conceiving viable applications for emerging technologies to be characterized into everyday devices that eventually flooded markets and became household familiarities. While that may sound like wishful thinking, I can truthfully report that some of the "New Ideas" that came from the Media Lab during that period 2001-2004 were E-Ink, Vision tracking, vehicle distance sensing, and audio beams; all of which have today landed into huge commercial applications and become parts of multi-million dollar industries.
So, while the photon-bounce assembled image of today's technology capability might seem like a blurry-blob only roughly recognizable,the breakthrough of re-assembling photon bounces into quazi recognizable image has been accomplished.Amazing! To me, this sounds like the pre-cursor to the Enterprise's 4-pad Transporter.Beam me up, Scotty!
I think there are several possible markets for this technology, and I'm not at all sure that they will all be niche markets, although no doubt some will be. Thanks, Jim, for your input, experience and enthusiasm. I didn't quite envision the Star Trek transponder when reading about this, but the possibilities for military/first responder and industrial/commercial applications seem pretty interesting and achievable.
Very interesting. If the "camera" measures time of flight of the photons, perhaps it relies on only one sensitive photodetector rather than an imaging array. Photodiodes can offer femtosecond response.
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