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This Stealth Camera Produces 3-D Images In Near Darkness

One million photons are worth a thousand words.

This Stealth Camera Produces 3-D Images In Near Darkness
[Images: Flickr user epSos.de, Nature.com]

Researchers at MIT have created a computational algorithm that allows them to assemble 3-D black-and-white images from individual photons in conditions that resemble total darkness to the human eye.

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Like LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging), which is currently revolutionizing satellite imagery, this photo technique uses laser pulses to scan the surface of an object in three dimensions. But the powerful algorithm allows the camera to stitch together high-resolution images from just one million photons. By contrast, a camera phone indoors would need one hundred trillion photons to produce an image of similar quality.

The possible applications of this spooky technology include spy cameras as well as medical applications, like taking pictures of the human eye without damaging it.

About the author

She’s the author of Generation Debt (Riverhead, 2006) and DIY U: Edupunks, Edupreneurs, and the Coming Transformation of Higher Education, (Chelsea Green, 2010). Her next book, The Test, about standardized testing, will be published by Public Affairs in 2015.

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