It’s amazing to think that 10 years ago we thought we were only a few years away from fully autonomous vehicles. Even now, we’re in the early stages of actually making them safe.
Blind corners have long troubled drivers, but they might not pose such a hazard for much longer. Researchers at Northwestern University have developed a new holographic camera technology that can peer around corners by reconstructing scattered light waves, quickly enough to spot fast-moving objects like cars or pedestrians.
When light strikes an object, it scatters, and some of that finds its way to our retinas, or the sensors of a camera, allowing the object to be seen. Of course, that means we can’t see objects behind other objects, or through scattering media like fog or skin. But there might be a way to use the scattering of light off multiple objects to see around corners.
Position a mirror just right, and you can see objects around corners. Even without a mirror, that principle still holds true – it’s just that the secondary object scatters the light too much for us to reconstruct the target. But an emerging technology called non-line-of-sight (NLoS) imaging can do just that.
NLoS systems work by beaming light out, which bounces off a surface, strikes an object and bounces back to the surface, then back to a sensor. Algorithms can then create an image of the object around a corner. As you might expect however, images reconstructed in this way can often be low resolution, or take too long to process.