Subscribe to RSS

Camera takes 3D photos in the dark

Camera takes 3D photos in the dark

The team captured images of objects, using just single particles of light, known as a photons.

"Billions" of photons would be required to take a photo using the camera on a mobile phone.

The researchers say the technology could be used to help soldiers on combat operations.

Ahmed Kirmani, who wrote the paper containing the findings, said the research has been called "counter-intuitive" as normally the number of photons detected would tell you how bright an image was.

"With only one photon per pixel you would expect the image to be completely featureless," he told the BBC.


Combat advantage

The camera technology already existed and is similar to the Lidar system used by Google for its Streetview service he explained.

Lidar uses laser pulses and the team used the reflected photons to create their 3D image

"We borrowed the principles form this, the detectors can identify single photons but they still need hundreds of thousands to form images. But we took the system to its limit."

Lidar uses a laser to fire pulses of light towards an object in a grid sequence. Each location on the grid corresponds to a pixel in the final image.

Normally the laser would fire a large number of times at each grid position and detect multiple reflected photons.

In contrast the system used by the MIT team moved on to the next position in the grid as soon as it had detected a single photon.

A conventional Lidar system would require about 100 times as many photons to make a similar image to the one the team captured which means the system could provide "substantial savings in energy and time".

The team say the technology could be used in many different fields. It could help ophthalmologists when they want to create an image of a patient's eye without having to shine a bright light in someone's eye.

The research was part funded by the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency which commissions research for the Department of Defense. Mr Kirmani said the military could use the technology to allow soldiers to see in the dark, giving them an advantage in combat situations.

Current 3D imaging techniques require more than single photons unlike the team's new system

"Any technology that enhances a military's ability to navigate, target or engage in near-total darkness would be highly prized. 3D imagery married with existing imagery and navigation technologies could significantly enhance the capabilities currently possessed," said Reed Foster, a defence analyst at IHS.

Eventually, the researchers explain, the technology could be developed to make 3D cameras for mobile phones. The camera requires less light than the ones currently available and therefore uses less power.

0 comments

Other articlesgo to homepage

Hailo says Uber blocked investors

Hailo says Uber blocked investors

Speaking to the BBC, Hailo chairman Ron Zeghibe alleged Uber would talk to potential investors only if they agreed not to invest in Hailo or other rivals. Hailo recently abandoned its business in North America, saying it could not compete with Uber's "astronomical marketing spend". Uber said it did not wish to respond to Mr

The Queen sends her first tweet

The Queen sends her first tweet

That was the Queen's first ever tweet – sent through the @BritishMonarchy account – heralding the launch of a major new exhibition at London's Science Museum. It has been three years in the planning, and is one of the most ambitious projects the museum has ever undertaken. The Information Age gallery, opened by the Queen

Job centres to get digital makeover

Job centres to get digital makeover

Electronic pads that recognise job seekers' signatures using biometric software will be installed at centres around the UK, along with PC workstations and free wi-fi. The computers operate on the government's network and share the same level of security against hacking and viruses. The equipment has been tested at London Bridge Jobcentre. "We've moved away

Are robots too cute for comfort?

Are robots too cute for comfort?

Think of an elderly grandmother with dementia who becomes very attached to her robotic "pet" and you will realise that this isn't science fiction. There are robots now being tested as teaching aids in small-scale studies with pre-school children, robots helping with the socialisation of people with autism, robots acting as companion pets in old

Silicon Valley’s billion dollar failures

Silicon Valley’s billion dollar failures

Last month Bill Gurley, a prominent venture capitalist, and investor in billion dollar companies like Uber and OpenTable, warned that start-ups were "burning" (read losing) huge amounts of cash in a bid to build their businesses. In fact, in an interview with the Wall Street Journal, he said the levels of risk being taken on

read more