Tag Archives: camera

A Camera to See around Corners

That light travels in straight lines, is a well-known fact of physics. This property of light prevents us from seen around corners, unless helped by a mirror. However, scientists have not allowed this limitation to prevent them from developing a far from average camera that can see around the average corner, without using x-rays or mirrors.

Genevieve Gariepy, along with his group of scientists, has developed a latest device with a detector that treats walls and floors as if they were virtual mirrors. Along with some clever data processing techniques, this amazing device has the power and is able to track moving objects that are out of its direct line of sight.

A mirror works by reflecting scattered light from an object. As the surface of a mirror is usually shiny, all the reflected light travels in a well-defined angle. As light scattered from different points on the object travel at the same angle even after reflection, the eye sees a clear image of the object. On the other hand, light reflected from a non-reflective surface is scattered randomly – preventing us from seeing a clear image.

At the University of Edinburgh and the Heriot-Watt University, researchers have found a way to tease out information on an object even when light from it is scattered randomly by a non-reflecting surface. They have published their method in Nature Photonics and it relies on the technology of laser range finding. This technology measures the distance of an object by the time it takes a light pulse to travel to the object, scatter and return to the detector.

In principle, the method of measurement is similar to range finding by ultrasonic technology. Only, instead of sound pulses, researchers use pulses of light. In practice, researchers bounce a laser pulse off the floor making it scatter. A tiny fraction of the laser light striking the object backscatters on the floor. The detector records the back scattered light from the virtual mirror spot, close to the initial spot where the laser strikes.

The speed of light is a constant and a known factor. Therefore, the device triangulates the position of the object by measuring the time interval from the start of the laser pulse to the scattered light reaching the patch on the floor. There are a few difficulties involved with this method.

The light levels the detector has to detect on the virtual spot are extremely low. Moreover, the timing measurement has to be accurate to within 500 nanoseconds or 500 billionths of a second. To overcome both these obstacles, researchers had to go in for some serious laser and detector technology. They had to use a laser pulse only ten femtoseconds long for the timing measurements.

The ultra-sensitive camera uses a one-pixel avalanche diode array called as SPAD to detect the image on the patch of the floor. The combination acts as an ultrafast stopwatch for recording the time the light pulse arrived after scattering. All this happens within a few billionths of a second.

It helps if the out of sight object the device is trying to locate is moving, while the nearby objects are not. The moving object then generates an image that changes with time and this can be filtered from the unvarying background.

A drone camera to follow you around

Unlike Mary, most of us are fortunate or unfortunate enough not to have a little lamb following us around. However, that does not mean we cannot have a camera drone following us wherever we go. A California-based startup firm has pioneered an easy-to-use, self-flying drone as the world’s unique throw-and-shoot camera that flies itself.

To use the device, you simply throw it into air. Lily, the drone camera, immediately deploys its four propellers to provide thrust and directional vectoring. No controller is required as Lily automatically follows its owner. You are free to continue to focus on your activity as Lily captures your adventures, flying itself while grabbing high definition images and video. It is impossible for you to outrun Lily, because it can fly at speeds of up to 25 mph. Therefore, you can employ Lily to film you while snowboarding, kayaking or cycling.

The camera inside Lily is specially engineered to withstand robust handling in tough aerial as well as water environments. Anyone who wants to share their everyday activities can use Lily as a simple, fun way to record their outdoor action sports. Lily can track its owner intelligently, following his or her every move by using GPS and advanced computing algorithms. Lily can provide additional creative shooting opportunities for those wanting to move beyond the single point-of-view of handheld and action cameras.

What makes Lily follow you around and not wander off with some stranger? Well, Lily comes with a tracking device that the owner has to wear on his or her wrist. In reality, Lily is wirelessly tethered to this tracking device, while recognizing the owner using computer vision to follow your features optically. Over time, the tracking accuracy improves as Lily learns on-the-job. With Lily, you can get exciting close-range photos as well as wide, cinematic shots just as professional filmmakers can.

Lily captures still shots at 12MP resolution, slow motion at 720p at 120fps and HD video at 1080p at 60fps. The tracking device uses a built-in microphone for recording high-quality sound, which Lily automatically synchronizes with the video being recorded. Lily has a companion app to which it streams low-resolution live video. This helps the user to frame the shots.

Lily works best in outdoor conditions at a height of 10-30ft. A proprietary computer vision algorithm drives the core technology of Lily’s camera. Although Lily works comfortably in winds exceeding 20mph, the manufacturer advices its use in winds below 15mph, to be safe.

Lily complies with FAA guidelines, while communicating with the tracking device worn by its owner. It relays speed, distance and position back to the built-in camera. The user can direct Lily via either the tracking device or the mobile app. According to the program used, Lily can follow, hover, loop, zoom and do more at an average flying speed of 15 mph. Depending on the way Lily’s owner uses it, a full charge allows Lily to operate between 18 and 22 minutes.

It takes two full hours to charge up fully. As the battery runs low, the tracking device warns you with vibrations. You can summon Lily to make it land on your palm gracefully.