Monday, November 22, 2010

Femtosecond Transient Imaging, Seeing Around Corners: Available in About Two Years

"MIT Researchers Create Camera That Sees Around Corners"
Tracie McDaniel, Science, DailyTech (November 21, 2010)

"Using ultra-fast imaging and 'echoes of light,' researchers have developed an innovative camera that takes pictures outside of traditional line of sight.

"Short bursts of light that reflect off of different objects is key for researchers at MIT. They've named the process 'Femto-Photography.' It exploits the finite speed of light and it is part of what they call the 'femtosecond transient imaging system.'

"Applying a femtosecond laser, short pulses of light bounce around off of one object and on to another before reflecting back onto the original object where it is then captured by the camera. The bursts of light last for one quadrillionth of a second. Algorithms then reconstruct what is hidden.

"According to MIT Professor Ramesh Raskar, the camera creates a '3D time-image' of the unseen image, by continuously gathering light and computing the time and distance that each pixel has traveled...."

Two words:
  • Oh
  • Wow
This technology is in its very early stages - sort of like X-ray machines, about a hundred years back. (November 8, 2010) The DailyTech article doesn't show any pictures made by the Femto-Photography, so the Lemming's guess is that the results aren't all that spectacular.

Given how useful this sort of thing could be, the Lemming's guess is that the MIT folks won't have to work all that hard for R & D funding.

Back to that article:

"...potential applications could include search and rescue, medical imaging, industrial building inspection and traffic collision prevention.

" 'You could generate a map before you go into a dangerous place like a building fire, or a robotic car could use the system to compute the path it should take around a corner before it takes it.'..."
(MIT Professor Ramesh Raskar, via DailyTech)

How long before there's a portable imaging system that uses this technology? The folks at MIT think - about two years.

More (a bit on the technical side):

Blink, and You'll Miss Something

Someone pointed out that Julius Caesar and George Washington wouldn't have had all that much trouble communicating with each other - apart from a nearly-eighteen-century gap between their lifetimes. George Washington probably understood enough Latin to get by - or could have found someone who did. It wasn't until the mid-20th century that Latin stopped being 'required' for serious students in the Western world.

Their common ground wasn't limited to language. Both men lived in a world where most people either grew food themselves, or worked directly with someone who did. Land transportation was powered by horses or other draft animals. Writing was the ultimate data storage and retrieval technology - although Julius Caesar would, the Lemming thinks, have been fascinated by the implications of movable type.

Not much had changed, in terms of technology.

Then somebody developed a way to get enormous amounts of more-or-less controllable power by boiling water. Steam locomotives, the telegraph, airliners, the Internet, and robotic spaceships followed in quick succession. And farming has changed from a nearly-universal occupation to a sort of professional specialty.

American English hasn't changed all that much in the last two centuries, so George Washington would be able to hold a conversation without much trouble. Until someone mentioned a car, cell phone, iPod, television - you get the idea. The former president would have a whole lot of catching up to do.

And now we're looking at portable 'see-around-corner' technology in about two years.

No wonder some folks write about an 'overwhelmed' 'hive mind.' (January 27, 2010)

The Lemming doesn't see things that way, but I've had a life that let me keep up with what's happening. Having to learn a new job every year or so helped.

Not-entirely-unrelated posts:
A tip of the hat to paulcbrady, on Twitter, for the heads-up on the DailyTech article.


Brigid said...

A paragraph starts, and then stops suddenly: "Given how useful this sort of thing could be "

The Friendly Neighborhood Proofreader

P.S. Way cool.

Brian, aka Aluwir, aka Norski said...


"Way cool" is right.

Thanks for the heads-up on that truncated paragraph. I've filled in what I think I was going to say.

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