MIT hacked a Xbox Kinect to create a reflection-free camera

When taking photos, whether it be of sights or people, sometimes shooting through a window is unavoidable, and that means there's probably going to be glare or reflections. Turns out, researchers at MIT's Media Lab are looking to address this, as their Camera Culture Group is developing a camera that can take photos through glass without any reflections. For their latest project they used the Xbox One's Kinect motion sensor and camera, taking advantage of its depth sensor.

The MIT researchers had already developed a system that beams light onto a photographers subject, and then measures the intensity of reflected light as well as the arrival time. In modifying the Kinect, the team ended up actually collaborating with Microsoft Research, working to adapt the camera to use specific frequencies of light, and then identify reflections from different depths.

"The researchers developed a special camera that emits light only of specific frequencies and gauges the intensity of the reflections. That information, coupled with knowledge of the number of different reflectors positioned between the camera and the scene of interest, enables the researchers' algorithms to deduce the phase of the returning light and separate out signals from different depths."

The Media Lab has been praised by academics for managing to solve the reflection problem with a video game accessory — a common, off-the-shelf device for consumers — instead of relying on large, expensive, lab-quality equipment.