Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


With light echoes, the invisible becomes visible


Scientists at the University of Bonn and the University of British Columbia (Vancouver, Canada) have developed a novel camera system which can see around the corner without using a mirror. Using diffusely reflected light, it reconstructs the shape of objects outside of the field of view.

The researchers will be reporting their results at the international Conference for Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition (CVPR) from June 24-27 in Columbus (Ohio, USA).

Prof. Dr.-Ing. Matthias Hullin from the Institute of Computer Science II at the University of Bonn.

Photo: Hullin

A laser shines on the wall; a camera watches the scene. Nothing more than white ingrain wallpaper with a bright spot of light can be seen through the lens. A computer records these initially unremarkable images and as the data is processed further, little by little, the outlines of an object appear on a screen.

Yet, this object is behind a partition and the camera cannot possibly have seen it – we have apparently looked around the corner. A magic trick? "No," says Prof. Dr.-Ing. Matthias B. Hullin from the Institute of Computer Science II at the University of Bonn. "This is an actual reconstruction from diffusely scattered light. Our camera, combined with a mathematical procedure, enables us to virtually transform this wall into a mirror."

Scattered light is used as a source of information

The laser dot on the wall is by itself a source of scattered light, which serves as the crucial source of information. Some of this light, in a roundabout way, falls back onto the wall and finally into the camera. "We are recording a kind of light echo, that is, time-resolved data, from which we can reconstruct the object," explains the Bonn computer scientist. "Part of the light has also come into contact with the unknown object and it thus brings valuable information with it about its shape and appearance."

To be able to measure such echoes, a special camera system is required which Prof. Hullin has developed together with his colleagues at the University of British Columbia (Vancouver, Canada) and further refined after his return to Bonn. In contrast to conventional cameras, it records not just the direction from which the light is coming but also how long it took the light to get from the source to the camera.

The technical complexity for this is comparatively low – suitable image sensors came onto the mass market long ago. They are mainly found in depth image cameras as they are used, for instance, as video game controllers or for range measurements in the automotive field. The actual challenge is to elicit the desired information from such time-of-flight measurements. Hullin compares the situation to a room which reverberates so greatly that one can no longer have a conversation with one's partner. "In principle, we are measuring nothing other than the sum of numerous light reflections which reached the camera through many different paths and which are superimposed on each other on the image sensor."

This problem, known as multipath interference, has been giving engineers headaches for a long time. Traditionally, one would attempt to remove the undesired multipath scatter and only use the direct portion of the signal. Based on an advanced mathematical model, Hullin and his colleagues, however, developed a method which can obtain the desired information exclusively from what would usually be considered noise rather than signal. Since multipath light also originates from objects which are not at all in the field of view, the researchers can thus make visible what is virtually invisible.

Minimal technical complexity and intelligent programming

"The accuracy of our method has its limits, of course," says Prof. Hullin – the results are still limited to rough outlines. However, the researchers assume that based on the rapid development of technical components and mathematical models, an even higher resolution can be achieved soon. Together with his colleagues, he will present the method at the international Conference for Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition (CVPR) from June 24 to 27 in Columbus (Ohio, USA). The new technology is received with great interest – Hullin hopes that similar approaches can be used, for example, in telecommunications, remote sensing and medical imaging.

Publication: Felix Heide, Lei Xiao, Wolfgang Heidrich und Matthias B. Hullin, "Diffuse Mirrors: 3D Reconstruction from Diffuse Indirect Illumination Using Inexpensive Time-of-Flight Sensors“.

Contact information:

Prof. Dr.-Ing. Matthias B. Hullin
Institute of Computer Science II
University of Bonn
Tel. 0228/7354169

Weitere Informationen: Publication Podcast

Johannes Seiler | idw - Informationsdienst Wissenschaft

All articles from Innovative Products >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia

21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine

Stanford researchers create new special-purpose computer that may someday save us billions

21.10.2016 | Information Technology

From ancient fossils to future cars

21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>