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New MIT Camera Takes 3D Photos in the Dark

Unknown Lamer posted about 5 months ago | from the point-clouds-in-the-dark dept.

Shark 45

smf28 writes "In a recent research paper published in Science, a team of researchers at MIT describe a new imaging technique that produces three-dimensional photos with only a single photon per pixel, using essentially one-hundredth the light of the best existing imaging technologies. The researchers say the technology could have a wide variety of low-light imaging applications from military to biological use."

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45 comments

Neat (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45580185)

CmdrTaco can finally snapchat his dickpics without being bombarded with the suns harsh rays.

Definition of "Dark" (4, Insightful)

sunderland56 (621843) | about 5 months ago | (#45580223)

> a single photon per pixel

Isn't that "low light", not dark? Dark == zero photons.

Re:Definition of "Dark" (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45580287)

You might have just proved that darkness doesn't exist, since there is no place in the universe not under the influence of a photon wave function.
There is the alternative explanation that you're just stupid and pedantic. Like me.

Re:Definition of "Dark" (3, Funny)

Tablizer (95088) | about 5 months ago | (#45580441)

There is the alternative explanation that you're just stupid and pedantic. Like me.

Is that what you call dark humor?

Re:Definition of "Dark" (4, Informative)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about 5 months ago | (#45580321)

No, "Dark" means not enough light to see well with the human eye. It's "Dark" even when the moons out. What you're talking about is called "Absolute Zero" and if the room were that "Dark" you'd have a lot more problems than just seeing.

Re:Definition of "Dark" (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45580541)

On the contrary... not even the concept of "problem" would exist. Nirvana.

Re:Definition of "Dark" (2)

benlad (1368001) | about 5 months ago | (#45581761)

You could say a normal camera can take pictures in the dark with a flash. This one uses a laser.

Re:Definition of "Dark" (1)

DarwinSurvivor (1752106) | about 4 months ago | (#45625129)

Except the camera takes the picture while the flash is illuminated, and for that brief moment it is no longer dark.

Re:Definition of "Dark" (1)

Threni (635302) | about 5 months ago | (#45581943)

In that case, dial down the excitement of this device. There are plenty of cameras which can take pictures in the "dark".

Re:Definition of "Dark" (1)

AK Marc (707885) | about 5 months ago | (#45580561)

What would a picture capture in the complete absence of all photons? Other wavelengths? reflected wavelengths?

Re:Definition of "Dark" (2)

Cryacin (657549) | about 5 months ago | (#45580661)

Exactly the same level of content as the article.

Re:Definition of "Dark" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45592003)

It's been a while since I studied physics, but I seem to recall that lasers are made of photons.

Re:Definition of "Dark" (1)

c0lo (1497653) | about 5 months ago | (#45581135)

> a single photon per pixel

Isn't that "low light", not dark? Dark == zero photons.

No, it can be completely dark because the camera uses active ilumination ("low ilumination" but still active).

In the team’s setup, low-intensity pulses of visible laser light scan an object of interest. The laser fires a pulse at a given location until a single reflected photon is recorded by a detector; each illuminated location corresponds to a pixel in the final image.

Re:Definition of "Dark" (1)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about 5 months ago | (#45581785)

No, it can be completely dark because the camera uses active ilumination ("low ilumination" but still active).

Big deal then. Cameras with flashes have been taking photos in the dark for years, and they're way better than these.

Re:Definition of "Dark" (1)

gstoddart (321705) | about 5 months ago | (#45582825)

Big deal then. Cameras with flashes have been taking photos in the dark for years

Not at this level of sensitivity.

It's like land speed records -- sure, cars have been going 'fast' for a long time too, but not as fast as the last guy to set the record.

And, in case you've not read TFA ...

The achievement is likely to support studies of fragile biological materials, such as the human eye, that could be damaged or destroyed by higher levels of illumination. The development could also have applications for military surveillance, such as in a spy camera that records a scene with a minimum of illumination to elude detection.

So, from a medical perspective we can do some stuff which would be otherwise damaged. From a military perspective instead of a big honking light to let people know you're there, you can do it more covertly. I suspect it would also be useful in a lot of other places -- inside mines for example, or search and rescue type stuff in buildings.

What have you done this week besides bitching on Slashdot? If it isn't scientific progress, get over your bad-assed self and stop treating it all like it's been done before.

Re:Definition of "Dark" (1)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about 5 months ago | (#45583415)

What have you done this week besides bitching on Slashdot? If it isn't scientific progress, get over your bad-assed self and stop treating it all like it's been done before.

Hey, that's my line!

I was mocking GGP for insisting it was "completely dark" despite the use of "active illumination," which, to be technically correct (the best kind of correct) is an oxymoron.

Re:Definition of "Dark" (3, Interesting)

kimvette (919543) | about 5 months ago | (#45581727)

No. "low light" for photography is in a wedding where the human eye can see perfectly fine but even with an f/1.8 lens you are shooting at ISO 800 or higher if you want a reasonably fast shutter speed. "extremely low light" where photography is in a bar or a club and are shooting at ISO 3200 or better in effort to get reasonable shutter speeds. "Dark" starts when reading is uncomfortable but not impossible. The kind of photography discussed in the article is an amazing feat.

Re:Definition of "Dark" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45581915)

The kind of photography discussed in the article is an amazing feat.

It may be. i work with LiDAR and will be reading the actual science article to find out if the ideas in the algorithm are useful to us. However, your examples don't apply here, since this system uses a coherent flash just like a LiDAR. You don't need ISO 3200 in a club with a flash.

Re:Definition of "Dark" (1)

semi-extrinsic (1997002) | about 5 months ago | (#45582159)

The kind of photography discussed in the article uses active illumination. That changes things quite a bit; I have no problems taking pictures in a wedding with what i call the "IKEA Fong sphere" on top of my camera, I can even do it at f/2.8 @ ISO 200.

See this [instructables.com] for an example photo and how to build one yourself.

Re:Definition of "Dark" (1)

semi-extrinsic (1997002) | about 5 months ago | (#45582177)

I should also say: I've gotten some very cool photos in bars by using the camera built-in flash and a full glass of beer as a diffuser. At 1/8@f/2.8, ISO 400 (with a good IS system/small sensor) you get quite a bit of ambient light to balance the shot nicely.

This is by the way something professional photographers tend to overlook: that larger sensor produces less noise at a given ISO/shutter/aperture, sure, but with a smaller sensor and an equivalent IS system you can often go as much as a stop or two lower in shutter speed before it gets tricky to hold the camera steady.

New Camera? Nope. (4, Insightful)

enoz (1181117) | about 5 months ago | (#45580305)

New MIT Camera Takes 3D Photos in the Dark? Nope... see TFA

“We didn’t invent a new laser or a new detector,” notes Kirmani. Instead, he explains, the team applied a new imaging algorithm that can be used with a standard, off-the-shelf photon detector.

Even with this technology the /. editors would remain blind /rant

Re:New Camera? Nope. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45580457)

Cool, now we can watch amateur pr0n , nightvision in IMAX 3D and see all the drippy bits and pimples . Just like being there....Watching...right there with them....Creampie!

Re:New Camera? Nope. (2)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | about 5 months ago | (#45581027)

You can have the same laser and the same detector and still have a new camera. Those are all different things in a parts/whole relationship. I seem to recall one of the DSLR manufacturers has sold the same body with different firmware to different markets with different model numbers and much different capabilities.

Pffft (4, Funny)

Tablizer (95088) | about 5 months ago | (#45580431)

I can do that with a regular 3D camera. True, the results are all black, but it's 3D blackness, just like real life in a dark room.

It will take off (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45580727)

When the porn industry can sell it.

other applications (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45580743)

This is a neat thing. There are several possible applications for a 1-photon sensitive ccd.

Firstly, (and sadly what will actually get them funding), it means ultra-tiny aperature size cameras are possibl. Since you don't need very many photons, we are talking "micrometer-sized" aperatures. Uncy sam can get his surveilence porn fix with super teeny tiny spy devices. Er... smaller even than they are now.

Secondly, it means "radically more sensitive astronomical sensors". Using a lense to "disperse" rather than concentrate light would allow a normal sized aperature to focus on absurdly distant objects with very high fidelity.

Eventually, consumer grade devices that never need a flash.

Possible uses as a precision light species assay tool for spectroscopy. (Depends on how sensitive to a waide variety of photon energies this 1-photon/pixel ccd tech is. If it is very wide, then it could be used to assay a wide spectral signature quickly, by measuring photon absorptions individually)

I am sure there would be many more. As a "3d scanner", the tech seems misapplied. I would much rather have a space telescope that can directly image distant exoplanets with an occulting disc to block out the target system's starlight than ÷ would some consumer crap that promises the world and a bag of chips, doing a function I really don't have a need for.

Re:other applications (1)

raynet (51803) | about 5 months ago | (#45581693)

Sadly it seems they don't have 1-photon sensitive ccd. The article says:

“We didn’t invent a new laser or a new detector,” notes Kirmani. Instead, he explains, the team applied a new imaging algorithm that can be used with a standard, off-the-shelf photon detector.

They are sending single photon pulses of light repeatedly to the target position until they managed to capture one and then continue to scan the next "pixel" of the target. So this wont help with any of those things you listed.

Re:other applications (1)

BubbaDave (1352535) | about 5 months ago | (#45583023)

Now the app I thought of was LIDAR pics through even heavier smoke/fog/dust etc.

Pretty high requirements on the aiming gear though to do it from a moving platform.

Actually, more than one photon per pixel (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45582019)

They *record* one photon per pixel, presumably using a photomultiplier, however they *shoot* many photons to the target until one is recorded, for each pixel location. So the photon they do record contains more information than just its own count. In particular, if they have to shoot say 100 photons to location A to detect one, and only 10 to location B, they know that B is more reflexive (whiter) than A.

This is still a very neat idea, but would not work if the scene was illuminated by non-controlled lighting, say the moon or stars.

applications (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45582131)

> wide variety of low-light imaging applications from military to biological use

But mainly military.

it's LIDAR, not a camera that shoots in the dark (3, Informative)

dutchwhizzman (817898) | about 5 months ago | (#45582135)

It's a LIDAR system. They shoot a laser at a pre-determined location and they measure the time it takes a single photon to hit their sensor. That's the distance part. They use some funky math to come up with a more detailed picture/model. The combination of the math and the fact that they only need one photon in a working apparatus makes this "special".

yah (1)

sociocapitalist (2471722) | about 5 months ago | (#45582513)

"...the technology could have a wide variety of low-light imaging applications from military to biological use."

As if the first thought in most /.ers minds wasn't naked pictures of someone...

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