This camera prototype can locate and track hidden objects around a corner

Researchers at MIT have created a camera that is capable of locating hidden objects, like pedestrians behind a wall, and tracking their movement. The tech needed to do this feat typically involves systems that are large, expensive, and limited to short distances. To develop the new camera system the researchers switched to using low-power microwaves.

Those microwaves are able to create 3D images of objects that are hidden behind walls. The team has also played with lidar tech to show what is behind a wall; the catch is that the techniques take more than an hour to work. The team ended up designing a new system that is along the lines of lidar, but faster and more sensitive.

The new system is able to precisely locate the hidden position of an object within a few seconds allowing motion tracking in real-time. The way the system works is by firing millions of short laser pulses at the floor just past the corner you need to see around. The light hits the floor and scatters as a spherical wave of light.

The camera points at the spot where the light was aimed and calculates the center position of the object around the corner. It performs that calculation by looking at how long it takes light to go from the object and back and the shape and direction of the returning wave of light. The camera itself is a SPAD camera, or single -photon avalanche diode camera and it can snap frames at 20 billion frames per second. Research is ongoing on the system to make it work in conditions like fog and to have a longer range.

SOURCE: Spectrum