Nav: Home

Plumbing the possibilities of a camera that 'sees around corners'

July 28, 2016

The Morgridge Institute for Research and University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers are working to optimize a camera capable of a slick optical trick: Snapping pictures around corners.

The imaging project, supported by a new $4.4 million grant from the U.S. Defense Department's Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), will work over four years to explore the limitations and potential applications of scattered-light technology that can recreate scenes outside human line of sight.

The technology, pioneered by Morgridge imaging specialist Andreas Velten, uses pulses of scattered light photons that bounce through a scene and are recaptured by finely tuned sensors connected to the camera. Information from this scattered light helps the researchers digitally rebuild a 3D environment that is either hidden or obstructed from view.

Download images at: https://uwmadison.box.com/v/velten-corners

While in its infancy, the technology has generated excitement about potential applications in medical imaging, disaster relief, navigation, robotic surgery and even space exploration. UW-Madison is one of eight university teams receiving 2016 DARPA grants to probe different forms of non-line-of-sight imaging.

Velten, also a scientist with the UW-Madison Laboratory for Optical and Computational Instrumentation (LOCI), first demonstrated non-line-of-sight imaging in 2012 with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The technique was able to recreate human figures and other shapes that were positioned around corners.

He now is partnering with Mohit Gupta, UW-Madison assistant professor of computer science, to see how far they can push the quality and complexity of these pictures -- a fundamental step before devices can become reality.

Questions include: Can they recapture movement? Can they determine what material an object is made of? Can they differentiate between very similar shapes? Can they push this method further to see around two, three, or more corners?

Velten and Gupta have developed a theoretical framework to determine how complex a scene they can recapture. They are creating models where they bounce light a half-dozen or more times through a space to capture objects that are either hidden or outside the field of view.

"The more times you can bounce this light within a scene, the more possible data you can collect," Velten says. "Since the first light is the strongest, and each proceeding bounce gets weaker and weaker, the sensor has to be sensitive enough to capture even a few photons of light."

Gupta brings expertise in computer vision to the project and will be developing methods to make better sense of the limited data coming back from these techniques. Gupta will work to develop algorithms that can better decode the data that helps recreate scenes.

"The information we will get is going to be noisy and the shapes will be blob-like, not much to the naked eye, so the visualization part of this will be huge," Gupta says. "Because this problem is so new, we don't even know what's possible."

The first two years of the grant will be devoted to the pushing the limitations of this technique. The second two years will focus on hardware development to make field applications possible.

Some of the possibilities are tantalizing. For example, Gupta says it could be used for safety tests of jet engines, examining performance while the engines are running. It could also be used to probe impossible-to-see spaces in shipwrecks such as the Titanic. Velten currently has a NASA project examining whether the technology can be used to probe the dimensions of moon caves.

Interestingly, the light used in this project would be pretty useless for standard photography. Regular cameras rely on the opening burst of light on the subject, while this project focuses on the indirect light that comes later and scatters and bounces through the scene.

"We are interested in capturing exactly what a conventional camera doesn't capture," he says.
-end-
Other university partners on the project include Universidad de Zaragoza in Spain, Columbia University, Politecnico di Milano in Italy, and the French-German Research Institute in St. Louis, France.

Morgridge Institute for Research

Related Technology Articles:

The science and technology of FAST
The Five hundred-meter Aperture Spherical radio Telescope (FAST), located in a radio quiet zone, with the targets (e.g., radio pulsars and neutron stars, galactic and extragalactic 21-cm HI emission).
AI technology could help protect water supplies
Progress on new artificial intelligence (AI) technology could make monitoring at water treatment plants cheaper and easier and help safeguard public health.
Transformative technology
UC Davis neuroscientists have developed fluorescence sensors that are opening a new era for the optical recording of dopamine activity in the living brain.
Do the elderly want technology to help them take their medication?
Over 65s say they would find technology to help them take their medications helpful, but need the technology to be familiar, accessible and easy to use, according to research by Queen Mary University of London and University of Cambridge.
Technology detecting RNase activity
A KAIST research team of Professor Hyun Gyu Park at Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering developed a new technology to detect the activity of RNase H, a RNA degrading enzyme.
Taking technology to the next level
Physicists from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Ultrahigh bandwidth Devices for Optical Systems (CUDOS) developed a new hybrid integrated platform, promising to be a more advanced alternative to conventional integrated circuits.
How technology use affects at-risk adolescents
More use of technology led to increases in attention, behavior and self-regulation problems over time for adolescents already at risk for mental health issues, a new study from Duke University finds.
Hold-up in ventures for technology transfer
The transfer of technology brings ideas closer to commercialization. The transformation happens in several steps, such as invention, innovation, building prototypes, production, market introduction, market expansion, after sales services.
The ultimate green technology
Imagine patterning and visualizing silicon at the atomic level, something which, if done successfully, will revolutionize the quantum and classical computing industry.
New technology detects COPD in minutes
Pioneering research by Professor Paul Lewis of Swansea University's Medical School into one of the most common lung diseases in the UK, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, has led to the development of a new technology that can quickly and easily diagnose and monitor the condition.
More Technology News and Technology Current Events

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Rethinking Anger
Anger is universal and complex: it can be quiet, festering, justified, vengeful, and destructive. This hour, TED speakers explore the many sides of anger, why we need it, and who's allowed to feel it. Guests include psychologists Ryan Martin and Russell Kolts, writer Soraya Chemaly, former talk radio host Lisa Fritsch, and business professor Dan Moshavi.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#538 Nobels and Astrophysics
This week we start with this year's physics Nobel Prize awarded to Jim Peebles, Michel Mayor, and Didier Queloz and finish with a discussion of the Nobel Prizes as a way to award and highlight important science. Are they still relevant? When science breakthroughs are built on the backs of hundreds -- and sometimes thousands -- of people's hard work, how do you pick just three to highlight? Join host Rachelle Saunders and astrophysicist, author, and science communicator Ethan Siegel for their chat about astrophysics and Nobel Prizes.