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New Tech from Stanford: A Vision of What’s Just Around the Corner

Stanford Researchers Devise a More Efficient Way to See the Unseen


You never know what might be lurking around the corner. Actually, you might soon know what’s around the corner.

Researchers at Stanford University have developed a system that see around corners by bouncing lasers past walls that are obstructing the line of sight.

“The idea is that we want to image objects where we don’t have direct line of sight,” says Stanford electrical engineering postdoctoral scholar Matthew O’Toole.

The technology is being envisioned for several possible applications (who knows what might be coming down the road), but one primary use for the idea is seen in autonomous vehicle technology.

A story in Stanford News on Monday imagines this scenario: as a car comes up on a sharp curve a kid around the curve loses his ball, and it rolls into the street. As a person in that car, you might not see that ball until the car comes around the corner, giving you very little time to stop. A car outfitted with the new laser tech from Stanford, however, would detect what’s happening before the car gets into the curve.

The technology is known as Non Line of Sight, or NLOS, imaging.

The researchers also envision other uses, including search and rescue work, medical uses, such as in surgery. And there would be obvious defense and law enforcement uses.

The group’s work was published Monday in the Journal Nature.

The group essentially found a new way to reconstruct the image that’s out of the line of sight without using as much computational memory as  earlier algorithms intended to do the same thing.

“A substantial challenge in non-line-of-sight imaging is figuring out an efficient way to recover the 3-D structure of the hidden object from the noisy measurements,” David Lindell, graduate student in the Stanford Computational Imaging Lab and co-author of the paper says in the Stanford news piece. “I think the big impact of this method is how computationally efficient it is.”


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