Inexpensive 3D 'Nano-Camera' for Medical Imaging and Car Collision Detection Systems

A three-dimensional 'nano-camera' that can operate at the speed of light has been developed by a research team in the MIT Media Lab. It could be used 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. The $500 camera probes the scene with a continuous-wave signal that oscillates at nanosecond periods. This allows the team to use inexpensive hardware – such as off-the-shelf LEDs that strobe at nanosecond periods. The camera is based on time of flight technology like that used in Microsoft's 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. "Using the current state of the art, such as the new Kinect, you cannot capture translucent objects in 3-D," says graduate student Achuta Kadambi. "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."