Is it a bird, is it an airplane? It’s Superman-type technology.
While it may seem like straight out of a comic book, the ability to peer through clouds and, fog using something resembling x-ray vision is now possible. This thanks to a new device developed by researchers at Stanford University.
The researchers took a system similar to those that allow autonomous vehicles to “see” and, improved it with an incredibly efficient algorithm, that is able to reconstruct three-dimensional hidden objects, based on the movements of light particles.
X-ray vision, or foam vision?
The researchers recently published an article in Nature Communications, in which they demonstrated that their system was able to reconstruct shapes obscured, by 1-inch thick foam, something like Superman vision.
A lot of imaging techniques make the images a little more beautiful, a little less noisy, but it’s really something where we make the invisible visible says Gordon Wetzstein, assistant professor at Stanford University and, lead author of the article.
It really pushes the boundaries of what can be possible, with any kind of detection system. It’s like superhuman vision.
Although this technology allows objects to be seen behind visible barriers, it is more suited to large-scale situations, such as self-driving cars in heavy rain, or fog and satellite imagery of the Earth.
However, the researchers say the technology can complement other systems for use at the microscopic scale and, therefore, can also be used for medical applications.
Detecting tiny particles of light.
The system combines a laser with an ultra-sensitive photon detector, that records every bit of laser light that hits it. Obstacles such as fog, moss, or clouds allow the occasional photon to pass.
Although the system catch up these tiny particles passing through these barriers, hitting the object behind it and, bouncing back towards the detector.
You can’t see behind the foam with your own eyes, and even looking at the detector’s photon measurements, you really couldn’t see anything, said David Lindell, electrical engineering and lead author of the paper.
The reconstruction algorithm can expose these objects, and you can see not only what they look like, but also where they are in 3D space.
Towards a better understanding of the universe.
After some time this technology could be used to travel through other planets to help see through hazy conditions, icy clouds, and other visual barriers.
Nowadays researchers state that their systems, can make self-driving cars and, other machines even safer, and they aim to perform more experiments and simulations to find the best use cases for their technology.
Both Lindell and Wetzstein say how this work represents a deeply interdisciplinary intersection of science and engineering.
These detection systems are devices with advanced lasers, detectors, and algorithms, which places them in a field of interdisciplinary research between hardware and, physics and applied mathematics.