It's a piece of equipment you're likely to see in a spy movie - a camera with the ability to see and track objects around corners. It’s now a reality thanks to a team of scientists who say the technology has widespread applications.
The specially developed camera uses lasers to sense the position of a hidden object and can track its movements with centimetre precision.
The results of the study from Heriot-Watt University in the UK were published in Nature Photonics today. The development could allow hidden objects to be tracked in real-time, including for surveillance and in vehicle collision avoidance systems, as well as in natural disasters.
The system works with two pieces of equipment – a laser and single-proton avalanche diode (SPAD), which is highly sensitive and can respond to light very quickly.
Designers Genevieve Gariepy and Daniele Faccio fired a stream of short pulses of light from the laser onto the floor just in front of a corner. The light then scatters across the floor and hits the hidden object – in this case a 30cm tall foam man.
The light reflects back off the object into the field of view of the camera, which is pointed at the corner, and is detected and analysed.
The system then uses the timing of the light pulses and the shape of the pattern of light to figure out where the object is within three seconds.
It can also reliably track the movement of an object a metre away from the camera.
The scientists say in future they could try to make a 3D reconstruction of the object.