Confocal Non-Line-of-Sight Imaging Technology and Its Possibilities

Suddenly, a team of researchers from the Stanford University is under the focus of imaging the world over. The team, which includes Matthew O'Toole, David B. Lindell, and Gordon Wetzstein, have presented a breakthrough technology to reveal objects hidden around corners. They call it “confocal non-line-of-sight imaging.”

Wonder what it is and how it may work? Assume a situation just after a destructive earthquake and the emergency search and rescue team is pushed into action. The main impediment to a speedy search and rescue will be the lack of knowledge about the exact locations of anyone trapped under the debris and rubble. And every second of delay in locating any trapped lives may prove costly. 

What if we can see beyond the normal line of sight or the hidden objects around corners? Confocal non-line-of-sight imaging is such a technology that is capable of imaging objects hidden around corners. As the team demonstrates, “confocal scanning technique solves the reconstruction problem of non-line-of-sight imaging to give fast and high-quality reconstructions of hidden objects.”

Confocal non-line-of-sight imaging uses a laser source to “send light around an obstacle using a scattering floor” and a single-photon avalanche diode (SPAD) camera to “detect the return signal from a hidden object within only a few seconds of acquisition time.” The technique can also reconstruct hidden objects at unprecedented image resolutions using “computational and memory resources that are orders of magnitude fewer than previous reconstruction methods.” 

Currently, the technology works well in imaging retroreflective hidden objects, such as any roadside signs or reflective boards. But it needs to be scaled up to detect nonreflective objects before it finds wide applications throughout the world. Once fully developed, it promises many useful applications in the industries of autonomous vehicles, search and rescue, defense, robotic vision, remote sensing and medical imaging, among many others.

Technology experts like Barry Greenstein, who holds a degree in computer science and is a professional poker player, are of the view that technology is meant to elevate humans. Despite his love for poker, Greenstein agrees with others who suggest developing technology in all industries, including poker and other gaming. 

Confocal non-line-of-sight imaging is one such technology that is expected to secure the future of humans. That is the reason why the researchers working on this technology has been so focused. And once this technique is finely tuned to suit real-life applications with necessary enhancements, it is all poised to secure our everyday lives.

IMAGE CREDIT: “Hallway Robot” by ftzdomino is licensed under CC BY 2.0