Scientists Create Camera that Can See Around Corners, Locate Moving Objects

December 14, 2015 | Johannes Van Zijl

Photo credit: Youtube/ Extremelight Heriot-Watt University.

A team of scientists at Heriot Watt University have created a camera system that is able to see around corners, locating hidden objects and tracking any movement with great precision.

Genevieve Gariepy, a PhD researcher with the university’s Extreme Light Group explains:

 “The system works by sending light from the camera towards the hidden object or person, and getting it back again.

“By measuring the time it takes to return to the camera, we know how far away the object is. By recording the shape of the laser ‘echo’, we know what direction it’s coming from. It takes only a second for the camera to record all of this: so if the object is moving, we can follow it.”

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Professor Daniele Faccio from Heriot-Watt said, “The ability to detect the 3D shape of static, hidden objects has been demonstrated before, but the long acquisition time required by existing methods meant locating and monitoring the objects was a major challenge.

“We can now track hidden objects in real time and we’re still making discoveries about how the light identifies the objects, and can picture them in considerable detail.

“We’ve already increased the distance from which the camera system will work, which is over several metres. We’re also focusing on how we could attempt 3D reconstruction of the objects captured by the camera.”

This new technology could work on a human scale, and in real life applications. It could be used for example, in dangerous situations where you do not want to enter a room before knowing what you will find inside. Or ultimately, it could be used in flight rescue missions where the terrain could be extremely dangerous. With the help of this type of camera technology a better picture and understanding of the surrounding area could be created, which could support the pilot’s judgement of how to proceed with the rescue mission.

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