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Laser scans objects in 3D from half a mile away, scientists just need reason to use it

Sharif Sakr

3D scanning at a range of 0.62 miles? It just became possible, thanks to a laser camera developed by physicists at Heriot Watt University in Edinburgh, UK. You can pretty much see how it works from the images above -- laser beams are bounced off the target and the duration of their return journey is measured precisely enough to detect millimeter depth changes even at extreme distances. Speaking of which, the researchers believe they could pump the range up to 10 miles with a bit of extra research, and even shrink the blaster down to make it "fully portable" in less than five years. Who knows, someday it might even work around corners. But there's a problem: skin doesn't reflect the beams properly, which means people can't be accurately scanned unless they also happen to be ringwraiths. As a result, the researchers seem slightly at loss as to what to do with the technology, with their best suggestions so far being watching the growth of foliage or tracking the movement of rocks. We'd try to think up some other ideas, were it not for the distracting and utterly irrelevant Nazgul v Wilhelm video embedded after the break.