A new camera system can see around corners, locate hidden objects, and track their movements in real-time. The team of researchers at Heriot-Watt University in Scotland developed the camera, which is apparently so sensitive that it can track individual photons.
“The system works by sending light from the camera towards the hidden object or person, and getting it back again,” explained researcher Genevieve Gariepy. “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.”
The system actually sends a laser beam out 67 million times each second and averages the results to ensure accuracy. The device can then tell you the size, location, and movement of an object. Other cameras have previously used similar techniques to see around corners, but this is the first that can work in real-time. It’s much more than a tool for snooping—the technology could be used to help cars sense what is around sharp corners, as part of collision avoidance systems or in fully autonomous vehicles. The research is described in Nature Photonics.