Scientists Develop Camera That Can See Through Frosted Glass and Around Corners

November 5, 2012, By Sanjeev Ramachandran

Once, when asked what power of Superman I envy most, I replied that his x-ray vision was what I admired most. The power to see through objects was something I thought would be a wonderful gift, and for many reasons.

But for now, let’s leave those reasons aside and concentrate on the x-ray part. It looks like that age-old wish of mine (as well as countless others’) might come true in the future. It wouldn’t be a power of the naked eye, but with the aid of a special set of glasses, we just might be able to see through walls.

It’s scientists in Israel who have gained some steps into that field of technology. They have developed a camera that can see around corners and through opaque objects like frosted glass and even skin.

The best part to this innovation is that it doesn’t use any lasers or x-rays, but employs natural light to perform the imaging. The brains behind this technology are Ori Katz, Eran Small, and Yaron Silberberg of the Weizmann Institute.

Normally when you look at an object through, for example, a frosted glass, the object loses its definite shape and form. This is because of the scattering media; frosted glass scatters the light particles all around, so that instead of carving out specific shapes in our eyes, we get a vague form.

The Weizmann Institute scientists have demonstrated that they, on the other hand, can accurately resolve the shape of an object that is hidden from direct view. The light that scatters due to the obstacle creates, what they call a white noise, but their camera gathers these bits of noise and groups them together, enhancing them a 1000-fold- the result is accurately recreated image.

The whole thing is devilishly simple, and employs the services of a spatial light modulator (SLM). The SLM is an array of pixels that changes the phase of light passing through it, depending on the electric current passing through each pixel.

The phase of light, basically, is changed differently by each part of the object, as the light particles bounces of the object. Scientists, using a genetic optimization algorithm, modulate each pixel of the SLM till a sharp image is extracted from the white noise.

The whole technology isn’t very high-end as it uses incoherent light and available hardware. Without any high-end complications in pricy hardware and complex procedures, this technology could pave the way for research in many fields without any difficulty.

The Israeli scientists hope that their innovation might have a pivotal role in medical imaging, where with the use of this process can help resolve anomalies inside the brain and other organs. Moreover, even though the whole technological system is laboratory-sized, we can expect the technology to take birth in a smaller form- into glasses and cameras.

A pair of x-ray glasses that could help doctors to look under the skin would be a path-breaking invention. But think about it a little longer and you could come up with a whole lot of non-medical related fields where the technology could be applied.

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