Scientists have long known that photons, the basic particle of light, is reflected, that is, it bounces off of surfaces, and have harnessed that property to create dozens of useful technological innovations such as laser distance measuring devices and so forth. The latest invention, however, is perhaps the coolest of all…a laser camera that can “see” around corners.
The new research involves the use of lasers and cameras to track moving objects that are around the corner of a building or alleyway. The researchers noted that this new technology would obviously be a huge step forward to help vehicles see around blind corners to avoid collisions.
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The new study was published this week in the academic journal Nature Photonics.
More on new laser camera technology to see around corners
Laser scanners are already used all the time today to make 3-D images of items. The scanners work by bouncing pulses of light off of objects, and given that light travels at a constant speed, the returned light can be used to precisely recreate the objects in three dimensions.
Earlier research suggested that lasers might be able to identify objects hidden around corners by firing light pulses at surfaces such as the walls and floor near the objects. These surfaces basically act like weak mirrors, scattering the photons of light onto any objects obscured around the corner.
It is really just a matter of analyzing the light reflected off the objects and various surfaces back to the scanner, and with the help of modern software, the researchers can reconstruct the shapes of the items around the corner.
Statement from senior author Daniele Faccio
“The ability to see behind a wall is rather remarkable,” commented study senior author Daniele Faccio, an academic at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, Scotland.
This new technology could be useful in many ways, from military applications to smart cars and autonomous driving. For example, this kind of a foward-looking “laser radar” system could be a big benefit in helping cars see around upcoming bends to avoid collisions. “If the other vehicle or person is arriving too fast, implying that there could be a collision, then the system could feed this information to the car, which could then autonomously decide to slow down,” Faccio explained in a recent interview.