Remember folks MIT created a camera with a “shutter speed” of one trillion exposures per second? And now they have done it again. Researchers at the MIT Media Lab have developed a three-dimensional ‘nano-camera’ that accomplishes all that and more. Interestingly, the nano-cam comes with a price tag of just $500.
The new device is based on ‘Time of Flight’ technology like that used in Microsoft’s recently launched second-generation Kinect device, in which the location of objects is calculated by how long it takes a light signal to reflect off a surface and return to the sensor. Unlike existing devices based on this technology, the camera works in rain, fog, or even translucent objects, says co-author Achuta Kadambi, a graduate student at MIT.
“Using the current state of the art, such as the new Kinect, you cannot capture translucent objects in 3-D,” Kadambi says. “That is because the light that bounces off the transparent object and the background smear into one pixel on the camera. Using our technique you can generate 3-D models of translucent or near-transparent objects.”
The device uses an encoding technique commonly used in the telecommunications industry to calculate the distance a signal has travelled, says Ramesh Raskar, an associate professor of media arts and sciences and leader of the Camera Culture group within the Media Lab.
“We use a new method that allows us to encode information in time,” Raskar says. “So when the data comes back, we can do calculations that are very common in the telecommunications world, to estimate different distances from the single signal.”
The camera finds its applications in medical imaging and collision-avoidance detectors for cars, and to improve the accuracy of motion tracking and gesture-recognition devices used in interactive gaming