No matter how many megapixels they might have, modern cameras have one fatal flaw — they can't take pictures around corners. Thankfully, Ramesh Raskar and his team at MIT's Media Lab are building something that can do just that. The team has developed a camera that uses lasers to gather images of objects hidden behind walls, which it can then use to construct a 3D model.
The camera starts out by bouncing a laser impulse off of a visible wall so that its scattered photons reach the hidden object obscured behind other walls. It then records the time it takes the photons to come back to it, and this process is repeated 60 times with each laser fired at a different position. An image is recorded each time and an algorithm is then used to turn the images into a 3D model of what's hidden — it's a process that Raskar describes as similar to what's used during CAT scans. Currently it takes a few minutes to generate the model, but the team is hoping to speed that up to around 10 seconds in the future.
While the laser camera might not replace your Cyber-shot anytime soon, the team sees it eventually being used to photograph dangerous and inaccessible areas, like the inside of a machine full of moving parts.