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A Camera That Peers Around Corners

By MIT News

March 21, 2012

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Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers have developed a system that can produce recognizable three-dimensional (3-D) images of objects located around corners and outside of the camera's line of sight. The researchers say the technology could lead to imaging systems that enable emergency responders to evaluate dangerous environments or vehicle navigation systems that can handle blind turns.

The system works similarly to a periscope, but instead of using angled mirrors to redirect light, it uses walls, doors, and floors. The system utilizes a femtosecond laser, which emits extremely short bursts of light that enables the system to gauge how far the light bursts have traveled by measuring the time it takes them to return to the detector.

In a recent experiment, Andreas Velten at the Morgridge Institute for Research used the technology to fire femtosecond bursts of laser light at an opaque screen, which reflected the light onto objects suspended in front of another opaque panel standing in for the back wall of a room. The data collected by the sensors were processed by algorithms that produced recognizable 3-D images.

The researchers say the problem of looking around a corner is similar to using multiple antennas to determine the direction of incoming radio signals.

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