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MIT's laser-powered camera can detect objects hidden around corners (video)

Amar Toor, @amartoo
03.21.12
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One of the most thrilling things about human existence is that you never know what's lurking around the corner. It could be a newborn baby, a sweet job, a delicious churro -- doesn't really matter, because it's a surprise, and surprises are fun and surprising. Just don't tell that to the doldrum dwellers over at MIT, because apparently, they don't agree. The same team that created a camera with light-speed shutter rates has now expanded upon their project, with a camera capable of seeing around corners. Literally. To do this, the system uses a so-called femtosecond laser to send out extremely short light pulses -- so short, in fact, that their entire lifespan is measured in quadrillionths of a second. To capture an object lurking around a corner, the device aims its laser at a nearby wall, thereby allowing the light to bounce around the room before eventually landing on the concealed object. Once it hits the jackpot, the light will reflect back onto the wall, and eventually return to a detector, which can gauge the exact location of the object based on the distance the laser traveled. This happens over and over again at different angles, meaning that the system will ultimately be able to get a general idea of the hidden room's layout. Researchers hope that their system will eventually be used in emergency rescue situations, or to help drivers see what's around the bend, though there's no telling when any of that could actually happen. For a diagrammatic rundown, check out the video after the break.


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