University Team Create Hi-Res 3D Camera Using Lasers

Not content with claiming our movies and our televisions, 3D is now taking our photographs with a camera system that creates 3D images using lasers from over a kilometre away. And that's no fuzzy blurry image either. From over 1000 metres this camera can snap crisp, high-definition images that are accurate to the millimetre.

The process is simple. The camera bounces laser beams off of objects and measures how long it takes the light to travel back to the detector. This process is called Time-of-Flight (ToF) and is already used by machine vision navigation systems for autonomous vehicles. However, many current ToF systems have a short range.

Led by Professor Gerald Buller from the School of Engineering and Physical Sciences, a team has refined ToF to the degree that it can even capture objects not usually responsive to laser pulses, such as fabrics.

This technology currently has more utility as a military device than an actual camera though - it is good at capturing far-away vehicles and repeated photographs can be used to determine a vehicle's speed and direction. It can also detect objects behind clutter, such as foliage.

What it can't do is render human faces. Due to human skin not reflecting enough photons, faces come back as just black, featureless voids. So it'll be some time more before we see this technology making its way to insagram.

Source: Heriot-Watt University