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NASA to Start Helping Detectives

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 8 years ago | from the right-hand-meet-left-hand dept.

78

Roland Piquepaille writes "With a new photographic laser device developed to check damages on the Space Shuttle, NASA is going to help the FBI to investigate crime scenes. The Laser Scaling and Measurement Device for Photographic Images (LSMDPI) was designed to provide a non-intrusive means of adding a scale to a photograph, which is very useful when looking at an object in space when there is no size reference. But the LSMDPI, which weighs only a half-pound and can be attached directly to a camera's tripod, will also be used on Earth in crime and accident scene investigations. It also could be used for oil and chemical tank monitoring or aerial photography."

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Minime, we do not hump the "laser" (2, Insightful)

ExE122 (954104) | more than 8 years ago | (#14829731)

This pattern appears in the photograph along with the image of the object under investigation, enabling the viewer to measure the size of the object

This will take pornography to a new level!

Seriously though, this seems like a very neat idea. It's like embedding a topographical map within a photo to give it a more 3 dimensional perspective.

I really think this technology would apply very well to image recognition applications. I'm thinking of the recent article on China's facial recognition surveillance program [slashdot.org] . Right now, it relies on using multiple camera angles to determine shapes and sizes of facial features. According to this article, it sounds like zapping a few lasers at someone's face would provide even more accurate measurements.

As far as other image recognition research goes, I know there are many techniques and complex sensors used to obtain accurate depth perception for autonomous AI agents. I think something like this would help a lot. Sort of like a bat navigating with sound, except it would be a robot navigating with lasers =).

Re:Minime, we do not hump the "laser" (1)

PitaBred (632671) | more than 8 years ago | (#14829861)

it sounds like zapping a few lasers at someone's face would provide even more accurate measurements.

WARNING: Do not look directly into LASER with remaining eye.

Re:Minime, we do not hump the "laser" (1)

fbjon (692006) | more than 8 years ago | (#14832913)

This seems rather primitive, actually. It just shoots two lasers into the scene to be photographed. More cool would be illuminating a whole grid of dots in the scene to give much better perception of depth and distance from the box. And there is a yet cooler way, with an aiming laser range finder, that aims a laser around the scene and scans a 2D "image" of the depths in it. One shot takes less than 10 seconds, and if you shoot from a few different angles, you can even reconstruct a virtual 3D scene of the real scene later.

A Match Made In Heaven (0, Troll)

TripMaster Monkey (862126) | more than 8 years ago | (#14829748)


He's a world-weary FBI investigator with depth perception issues. She's a feisty NASA electrical design engineer armed with twin lasers. They fight crime!

(Don't like mine? Make your own [epix.net] !)

Re:A Match Made In Heaven (1)

fishybell (516991) | more than 8 years ago | (#14829858)

At last! A real-world use for the internet.

Re:A Match Made In Heaven (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14834873)

You are such an incredible moron that it defies logic. I'm shocked that your no-brain-activity, fan-boys didn't mark this as "+5 Insightful".

NSA to start helping detectives? (2, Funny)

muellerr1 (868578) | more than 8 years ago | (#14829752)

DUPE! Bush ordered the NSA to help out with domestic law enforcement over two years ago.

Re:NSA to start helping detectives? (1)

CoderBob (858156) | more than 8 years ago | (#14829807)

NASA, not NSA.

Re:NSA to start helping detectives? (1)

muellerr1 (868578) | more than 8 years ago | (#14829817)

You play the straight man very well :)

Re:NSA to start helping detectives? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14829837)

You, on the other hand, are in no way credible as a straight man.

*rimshot*

Re:NSA to start helping detectives? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14830352)

I see.

And what do you mean exactly when you say "*rimshot*"?

Re:NSA to start helping detectives? (1)

dotpavan (829804) | more than 8 years ago | (#14830108)

humor, not "straight-face" :)

Yawn, not funny. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14830035)

You need to work that.

Maybe go Rosanne Rosannadanna with it, like "NSA's been spying on us for years ... oh, it's NASA? Never mind."

Or, "Oh, it's NASA? Wow, I didn't know they even let NASA use torture."

Or, "Oh, NASA? Isn't there a space agency named that? They should change the name, it could get confusing."

What, it's "National Aeronautics and Spying Administration" now?

Re:Yawn, not funny. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14830610)

...

NASA funding and Security (1)

CarpetShark (865376) | more than 8 years ago | (#14833282)

Actually, I was going to say that this isn't all that surprising, considering that the US Administration seems to be obsessed with "security", and that NASA is having it's funding cut to the point where they can barely do what they're famous for, let alone all the side projects. It does make some sense for them to start producing surveillance- and detection-related (as opposed to security) technology. Somehow I suspect the pure scientists who admire NASA probably won't be as happy about this as detectives will.

Re:NSA to start helping detectives? (1)

LifesABeach (234436) | more than 8 years ago | (#14834555)

Given NASA's lack of ability at getting man into space; I'm thinking that the total number of people that HAVE gone into space would make a nice group picture in front of a McDonalds. If I were the FBI, I'd trust NASA, but I would verify also.

There is no place to hide... (1)

digitaldc (879047) | more than 8 years ago | (#14829786)

...when NASA is looking for you from Space.

Re:There is no place to hide... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14829844)

...Unless you are Osama Bin Laden!

That's actually a good point (1)

LeonGeeste (917243) | more than 8 years ago | (#14829849)

While you're joking, this raises some serious issues. Now that NASA is helping police solve crimes, it's going to be even easier for the police to violate people's rights. NASA is supposed to be an organization for the advancement of scientific knowledge and achievement, not to help gumshoes break a case. With another weapon in the government's arsenal, except more and worse violations of civil liberties. Hope your feet aren't the wrong size! *bam!*

Re:That's actually a good point (2, Insightful)

minus_273 (174041) | more than 8 years ago | (#14829915)

Or, this is one more example of the wonderful technology that comes out of space research and something NASA should make more prominent. Going to space is not just about exploring the stars, it is investing in scientific research that has a very wide array of potential uses far beyond that.

NASA should really have a PR campaign highlighting everything we take fro granted that came from space research.

Re:That's actually a good point (1)

shrubya (570356) | more than 8 years ago | (#14830079)

Yeah, like Tang!

Re:That's actually a good point (1)

LeonGeeste (917243) | more than 8 years ago | (#14830084)

What? I thought I tagged you as a friend because you had a clue what you were talking about. NASA doesn't produce these innovations out of thin air. It diverts huge amounts of investment from the private sector to do so. It's like taking a hundred dollars from you, giving you a candy bar, and then having you suggest that I do a PR campaign highlighting the good I do in distributing candy bars to people. The choice is not "NASA spinoffs vs. no NASA spinoffs"; it's "NASA spinoffs vs. wealth produced in the absence of diversions of productive capacity to NASA". I thought you were the last person I'd have to explain that to.

Re:That's actually a good point (1)

minus_273 (174041) | more than 8 years ago | (#14830373)

" It diverts huge amounts of investment from the private sector to do so."

Actaully I agree with you for the most part. I'm thinking of scientific research in general terms here. As far as i know, NASA does not do everything in house, it diverts enourmous mounts of work to the private sector. For example, consider the moonlanders were made by Grumman not NASA. They were working for NASA. So your point about money going to NASA vs the private sector is not valid since there is no clear distinction between the two.

You candy bar analogy is also not valid. I would consider it more like me asking you to invest money in my company and doing a PR campaign to show what you get back for that money ie make a good product and advertise it so that more people will throw money at you.

Re:That's actually a good point (1)

LeonGeeste (917243) | more than 8 years ago | (#14830815)

Actaully I agree with you for the most part. I'm thinking of scientific research in general terms here. As far as i know, NASA does not do everything in house, it diverts enourmous mounts of work to the private sector. For example, consider the moonlanders were made by Grumman not NASA. They were working for NASA. So your point about money going to NASA vs the private sector is not valid since there is no clear distinction between the two.

Correct, it's possible to flip around your definitions and confuse the issue. I don't deny that. The public/private sector is not a meaningless distinction though. In the private sector, people desiring a service must put their own money into it, and any exchange is a demonstration of the buyer's and seller's preference. In the public sector the "buyer" (taxpayer) never actually makes a decision to purchase something, so what is produced may or may not (most likely not) have anything to do with his desires, and without the pressure to make a profit, effeciency drops in priority. You do not eliminate this by contracting out the work to the "private" sector. When you do so, the *end* buyer (taxpayer) never revealed a preference for it, and they're being monitored by people (government) under no pressure to produce a return. That the contractor is nominally part of the private sector doesn't change any of that. It's still diversion of resources from their highest best use. No showcase of benefits could prove anything because they say nothing about the unseen -- what would have been produced in the absence of such an intervention.

You candy bar analogy is also not valid. I would consider it more like me asking you to invest money in my company and doing a PR campaign to show what you get back for that money ie make a good product and advertise it so that more people will throw money at you.

And I don't see how that contradicts the analogy. In both cases, you "gave" (taxes here, folks) money to me. In both cases, I put it to a use. In both cases, I produced a benefit for you. In both cases, the benefit was worth far less than what you could have otherwise gotten with the same money. In both cases, you're advising that I advertise this "benefit".

Re:That's actually a good point (1)

RexRhino (769423) | more than 8 years ago | (#14831622)

You candy bar analogy is also not valid. I would consider it more like me asking you to invest money in my company and doing a PR campaign to show what you get back for that money ie make a good product and advertise it so that more people will throw money at you.

That's funny, but no one has ever asked me to invest money in NASA before. The government just kind of took the money away from me, without giving me a choice.

So, how do I sell my shares? How can I opt out of purchasing any more shares? Is NASA going to be willing to regulated by the Securities Exchange Commission? Is NASA going to be broken up into smaller companies by the FTC?... after all, it is a monopoly?

Hmmm... somehow I have trouble grasping your whole "investment" analogy.

A better analogy would be if someone pointed a gun to my head, and stole my money... and then promoted his wife's new diamond ring as a "spinoff technology".

Re:That's actually a good point (1)

Ohreally_factor (593551) | more than 8 years ago | (#14832676)

If you don't like how your tax money is spent, and you've exhausted the political avenues for change, you could always "vote with your feet", i.e., leave. Find a country that doesn't spend tax money on scientific research, or better yet, doesn't have an income tax at all.

Re:That's actually a good point (1)

K8Fan (37875) | more than 8 years ago | (#14831303)

The drag is that NASA also has a mandate to try to make money with the tools they develop. NASA scientists developed a great image analysis program called VISAR back in 1996 [rti.org] to clean up video for the Atlanta Olympic Park bombing. Since then, they've been trying to sell it to companies. To my knowledge, this has never appeared in a consumer-priced product - only in a $100k+ system to be sold to big police departments, the FBI/CIA and big casinos.

I can never justify the megabucks Intergraph system [intergraph.com] , nor can the hundreds of smaller police departments or sheriff's departments. The money that went into the NASA budget from Intergraph is a tiny amount compared to the value to the public at large of releasing this under an open source licence. If it was opened, Intergraph could still sell packaged systems (this still requires decent processor power) and support. But it could appear in free stand-alone tools, in video editing systems and in secutity systems.

Currently, a huge amount of security video that could be analyzed in this way is not, because of the cost. Making this free could save lives.

Re:There is no place to hide... (2, Funny)

Cheapy (809643) | more than 8 years ago | (#14829855)

What if your behind the satellite? Huh huh?

Re:There is no place to hide... (1)

digitaldc (879047) | more than 8 years ago | (#14829884)

What if your behind the satellite? Huh huh?

Then you are most likely playing Golf in Space. [slashdot.org]

Re:There is no place to hide... (1)

barefootgenius (926803) | more than 8 years ago | (#14830419)

Under the sea, inside a building, in a train, etc, etc, etc.....

Underground (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14830100)

I welcome our new Mole people overlords.

Except... (2, Funny)

KylePflug (898555) | more than 8 years ago | (#14830160)

indoors.

Re:Except... (1)

Thing 1 (178996) | more than 8 years ago | (#14832610)

Roofs ... OUTLAWED!!!

NOT indoors (1)

CarpetShark (865376) | more than 8 years ago | (#14833286)

Actually, satellites (like Hubble at least) use infrared and other cameras probably more than visible light cameras. Indoors isn't that much safer. Neither is underground, unless you go really far down.

Liberal hand wringing in 4... 3... (1)

Cornswalled (958023) | more than 8 years ago | (#14830734)

Oh great, another issue for the liberals to get their panties in a knot.

I wonder how long it will take for All Franken to start whining about this on his radio show, annoying both his listeners as he whimpers about what a misuse of technology this is, and what a horrible miscarriage of justice it entails.

Re:Liberal hand wringing in 4... 3... (1)

Ohreally_factor (593551) | more than 8 years ago | (#14832660)

I'm sorry, you want Axe Grinding. They're just down the hall and to the left.

iCamera... (1)

creimer (824291) | more than 8 years ago | (#14829787)

So when is Steve Jobs going to announce this new product? I'm surprised Apple haven't entered the digital depth photography business a long time ago. It's about time NASA start releasing taxpayer-funded technology back into the marketplace. :P

Re:iCamera... (1)

sehryan (412731) | more than 8 years ago | (#14829894)

Apple has way more important things to create, like leather Apple-branded iPod cases!

Re:iCamera... (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 8 years ago | (#14831495)

I take it then that I'm not the only one who saw them selling for $99 in the apple store and wondered if they were paying three cents for them in China, or five cents for them in Mexico... (Mexico can charge more, 'cause there's lower shipping costs.)

Re:iCamera... (1)

Ohreally_factor (593551) | more than 8 years ago | (#14832692)

But they won't be ready to ship until mañana.

Or proxima semana, if it's not that urgent.

Re:iCamera... (1)

AndroidCat (229562) | more than 8 years ago | (#14829909)

What, you've never heard of the eyePod?

one of their tools (1)

Douglas Simmons (628988) | more than 8 years ago | (#14829788)

Bet they use one of these babies [about.com] in their detective work.

Nobody's f^Htools... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14832059)

Well, at least they didn't use one of these babies [google.com] ...

OMG (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14829794)

This comment is like soooo offtopic. I mean it has absolutely nothing to do with the, er.. topic.

Friggen lazers (0)

killa62 (828317) | more than 8 years ago | (#14829799)

I hope there is no crime that is committed in an ocean.
Then a shark will swallow it and we'll see friggen sharks with friggen lazers that measure friggen distances.

LSMDPI:
Laser
Sharks
Make
Damn
People
Inpotent

THINK ABOUT IT
SHARKS WITH A FRIGGEN LASER THAT MEASURES SCALE!!!

Re:Friggen lazers (1)

skayell (921119) | more than 8 years ago | (#14830166)

Shagadelic?

Is it just me... (1)

rdwald (831442) | more than 8 years ago | (#14829860)

...or is this a simple as "we've got two lasers a known distance from one another and they shoot in the same direction"? I mean, who couldn't have come up with this "invention"? At least it's not a software patent...

Re:Is it just me... (1)

ploss (860589) | more than 8 years ago | (#14829997)

You're right. After RingTFA, it also includes a software package for viewing the images, where you can input the two points and their distance and it will give you the scale of what you are looking at. Enormously complex, indeed.

Whether or not this deserved to be on the front page is another issue. Hey, its a Roland Piquepaille story, so why not?

The street will find its own uses for technology (1)

AndroidCat (229562) | more than 8 years ago | (#14829885)

Speaking of which, how long before someone breaks one by sitting on it and trying to scan their butt?

Re:The street will find its own uses for technolog (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14831790)

Only when they reach up for the Mikado biscuits [youtube.com]

Great. "CSI: Low Earth Orbit" (2, Funny)

ScentCone (795499) | more than 8 years ago | (#14829902)

Put a fork in it. That franchise is done already.

which will become (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 8 years ago | (#14829969)

"CSI: Low Earth Orbit - Las Vegas"

matter of scale (2, Funny)

revery (456516) | more than 8 years ago | (#14829921)

The Laser Scaling and Measurement Device for Photographic Images (LSMDPI) was designed to provide a non-intrusive means of adding a scale to a photograph, which is very useful when looking at an object in space when there is no size reference.

I can just see the new spam now:

Want your equipment to look bigger from space?

try SeeAlice today...

LSMDPI gets used on it's first FBI case (1)

Hoi Polloi (522990) | more than 8 years ago | (#14829925)

"Well, thanks to the LSMDPI there was clearly some serious file sharing going on here. Just look at the massive damage those copyrights have suffered!"

yet another useful spinoff (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 8 years ago | (#14829950)

from NASA.
Could very well create in industry that pays more in taxes then it cost to develop. Like so many other spinoffs.

Re:yet another useful spinoff (1)

RexRhino (769423) | more than 8 years ago | (#14831571)

This is very similiar to the broken window falacy.

Sure, NASA research can produce useful spinoffs... but so could just researching the spinoff technologies directly (and probably much more efficently). We spend how many billions on space travel? And we get a laser measurement system? That could just have easily been developed by the private sector for a fraction of the cost. Bahh, this is pure propoganda in order to drum up funding. "Look, our NASA technology has civilian uses too! Isn't this wonderful! So don't feel bad about giving up lots of money".

Our decision to fund a space program should be based on our need/want for a space program... not on any possible side benfits, which could be better addressed directly.

Replace a $1 ruler with... "lasers" (3, Interesting)

Ancient_Hacker (751168) | more than 8 years ago | (#14829988)

Another lousy and expensive solution looking for a problem.

This kind of thingy is somewhat less useful and accurate than a "ruler" in the picture:

  • You have to calibrate the laser dot spacing against a ruler anyway, so you don't save the cost or weight of carrying around a ruler.
  • The calibration is only good at ONE distance and perpendicular to the lasers.
  • Rulers and tape measures can be used to measure other things, that lasers can't- like skew distances, or circumferences.
  • Rulers always show up as the right brightness on a photograph. Lasers have to be adjusted in brightness to match the scene, and may wash out if a flash is used.
  • Red laser light is not too visible if the object is like, red, or covered with blood.
Don't go put all your money on this company.. oh wait...

Re:Replace a $1 ruler with... "lasers" (1)

Ariane 6 (248505) | more than 8 years ago | (#14831218)

you don't save the cost or weight of carrying around a ruler.

That was never the point. The point is that you don't have to disrupt the crime scene to get your measurements now. When evidence is microscopic, that can be extremely important.

Rulers and tape measures can be used to measure other things, that lasers can't- like skew distances, or circumferences.

Once you've got a scale in a digital image, you can measure curves to your heart's content in software, without distrurbing the crime scene.

Red laser light is not too visible if the object is like, red, or covered with blood.

Yes, it is, actually...and it appears that, despite the obvious flaws that you pointed out, it is actually being adopted by the FBI. Such a folly could surely have beeb prevented, if only they'd consulted you first!

Re:Replace a $1 ruler with... "lasers" (1)

Ancient_Hacker (751168) | more than 8 years ago | (#14832016)

>Rulers and tape measures can be used to measure other things, that lasers can't- like skew distances, or circumferences. >Once you've got a scale in a digital image, you can measure curves to your heart's content in software, without distrurbing the crime scene. Yes, please explain how you can get 3-D info out of a 2-D image of lines projected onto a 3-D surface. You'll get a Nobel proze in Math, and they don't even give one. THen explain how you can measure the circumference of a body given the same info. Another Nobel.

Yup! (1)

koick (770435) | more than 8 years ago | (#14831293)

Sure, this lets you measure something without getting too close to it (e.g. disturbing a crime scene or disturbing a fish) For about $70 we use an underwater version of this:
Of course you expoy them while they are aligned. We do this with their dots at 2 1/2". This setup gives very accurate measurements well over 40' (that is, beyond the point at which you can even really see in a photo anything that small).

Re:Replace a $1 ruler with... "lasers" (1)

FatBobSmith (555928) | more than 8 years ago | (#14832594)

I actually helped with some of the development of this product, so let me clear up a few questions:

You have to calibrate the laser dot spacing against a ruler anyway, so you don't save the cost or weight of carrying around a ruler.

The lasers are coaligned in their case and are calibrated at manufacture to be exactly one inch apart up to a distance of roughly 20 feet. Each unit is tested before it goes out the door.

The calibration is only good at ONE distance and perpendicular to the lasers

The lasers are one inch apart up to around 20 feet, at which point they start to spread. The laser scaling device is meant as a quick reference scale, not an exact scale of measurement for small items.

Rulers and tape measures can be used to measure other things, that lasers can't- like skew distances, or circumferences

Yes, but if you're taking thousands of pictures in one sitting, it sure does help if you don't have to place scales in every picture.

Rulers always show up as the right brightness on a photograph. Lasers have to be adjusted in brightness to match the scene, and may wash out if a flash is used

The laser doesn't work in every circumstance. Neither does a ruler, actually.

Red laser light is not too visible if the object is like, red, or covered with blood.

...and if you're in a crime scene that's covered in blood, it's not the best idea to charge through the room so you can place a scale next to evidence.

Aaargh! (1)

Arandir (19206) | more than 8 years ago | (#14830050)

This violates my sacred rights of privacy! Think of the children! Aaargh!

Pipsqueek (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14830094)

Bah.. Roland Pipsqueek and his stupid stories are really starting to piss me off.

Not exactly a new idea... (1)

demonbug (309515) | more than 8 years ago | (#14830098)

I've seen this technique used for imagery (video and still images) from deep-sea submersibles/ROVs for years (as one example that others are somewhat likely to have seen, watch for the twin red dots in many of the underwater scenes in "Aliens of the Deep" - which, I just realized, was done in cooperation with NASA). It kind of sucks when you see a new formation/organism/whatever, take pictures, then realize you have absolutely no way of telling how big it is when you look at the images later.

Re:Not exactly a new idea... (1)

pimpimpim (811140) | more than 8 years ago | (#14833902)

come on man, this has been done for ages: the fish was this (hold your arms way out at both sides) big! I swear by my grand-mother's grave! ;)

Supporting and Supplimentary data. (1)

keilinw (663210) | more than 8 years ago | (#14830231)

The idea is way cool, but the technolgy is almost too simple! This, however, is a good thing... as we oftentimes neglect the simple, elegant, and effectieve solutions that spring up when we NEED them.

Its not quite a new concept, but I'd really like to see this, along with other technolgies, implemented into my plain old digital camera (PODC) :)

I think a lot of people could benefit from knowing the scale of images taken with their camera.... More useful, howerver, would be if the laser beams used an invisible but detecable frequency of light that would not interfere with the original image...Of course the camera would somehow have to record this information or figure it out in image processing and record it as meta-data... but that would be useful.

We've already seen built in WIFI, now I want to see built in "Supporting data" solutions that include, but are not limited to: GPS information, time and data information, orientation (in the 3d plane) as well as perhaps motion / scale information.

While this supporting data is not necessarily immediately useful it just might lend a hand to those crazy projects that aim to use interpolation and extrapolation techniques to build realtime 3d representations of what they think is going on based on what they've seen going on! (As an example, assume that you have a time sequenced series of photos taken by a digital camera at the center of the room. These images can be "stitched" together to create a 3d virtual space (nothing new). Now add a ball rolling from one corner of the room to another. It is possible to interpolate / extrapolate data that would allow us to create a virtual "video" showing the ball rolling across the room based on REAL velocities and predicted trajectories... cool huh? I don't know much about those projects, but I'm almost certain that having SCALE information would help things out a lot.... this, as well as more complex situatations where the camera is moving in 3D space.

--Matthew Wong
http://www.themidofmatthew.com [themidofmatthew.com]

But...! (1)

Rob T Firefly (844560) | more than 8 years ago | (#14830372)

Can it core a apple, oh Chef of the Future?

Answer to NASA's funding problems (1)

netcrusher88 (743318) | more than 8 years ago | (#14830422)

If this could help monitor, say, oil tanks, then why doesn't NASA license the technology out to oil companies for exorbitant fees? It might help provide funding to get some important projects, ahem, off the ground.

Re:Answer to NASA's funding problems (1)

RexRhino (769423) | more than 8 years ago | (#14831526)

Why doesn't NASA licence the technology? Hmmm.... well maybe the technology developed by a government agency, with tax money, belongs to all the taxpayers anyway?

Why doesn't the government trademark the flag and licence that too?

Go right.... stop... (1)

noidentity (188756) | more than 8 years ago | (#14830481)

Cue the Bladerunner jokes...

Roland the Plogger (1)

Animats (122034) | more than 8 years ago | (#14830515)

It's Roland the Plogger again, this time hyping a NASA technology.

It's not much of a technology. That's called "structured light", and it's been used for years in industrial computer vision systems. It's one of the simplest ways to measure depth in an image.

It's not even new to law enforcement. Here's a PowerPoint presentation [geradts.com] on using it to look at stamped logos in pills. This is from a 2004 conference in Dallas.

More technical information (1)

diegoq (149586) | more than 8 years ago | (#14830701)

These NASA Tech Briefs offers more information:
The tool (see Figure 1) includes an aluminum housing, within which are mounted four laser diodes that operate at a wavelength of 670 nm. The laser diodes are spaced 1 in. (2.54 cm) apart along a baseline. The laser diodes are mounted with setscrews, which are used to adjust their beams to make them all parallel to each other and perpendicular to the baseline. During the adjustment process, the effect of the adjustments is observed by measuring the positions of the laser-beam spots on a target 80 ft (Å24 m) away. Once the adjustments have been completed, the laser beams define three 1-in. (2.54-cm) intervals and the location of each beam is defined to within 1/16 in. (Å1.6 mm) at any target distance out to about 80 ft (Å24 m).
See the briefs themselves: Optoelectronic Tool Adds Scale Marks to Photographic Images [nasatech.com] and Software For Use With Optoelectronic Measuring Tool [nasatech.com] .
A "Technical Support Package" (PDF) is available as well [nasatech.com] .

Good for scientific research too! (1)

damneinstien (939730) | more than 8 years ago | (#14831770)

Last summer I was researching lichen [wikipedia.org] and using them to detect changes in the environment. We needed to measure their surface area and used a similar apparatus for doing so. Except, instead of photographing the laser, as the article suggests, we shot them at the lichen and used some calculus to grab surface area.

SI units defined! (1)

mattr (78516) | more than 8 years ago | (#14832434)

This chilled me along a few axes at once.

Following a recent request from Armor, NASA also included English/Metric units -- millimeters, centimeters, meters, and kilometers -- to support European customers and aerial photography.


So NASA is still operating in non-metric units, they created a laser measuring device which TFA suggests is measured with software outputting non-metric units though we don't know if they use the decimal system or say 1/16 inch, they had to be requested to add SI (systeme internationale, or metric) units, TFA has to explain what SI units are, TFA then uses the ambiguous word English which in measurements usually indicates non-metric, bushel and foot-pound quaintness even beyond the American units. Maybe NASA doesn't feel comfortable with SI and so is trying not to standardize on it or appear to be an expert on it? When's the next bit of space hardware due to get a nervous breakdown due to a need for inches and degrees fahrenheit?

Wasn't this thing used on TV... (1)

Kra Z Joe (803519) | more than 8 years ago | (#14833007)

... in an episode of "Numbers" or "CSI" or some show of that type?

Used on submarines (1)

wiredlogic (135348) | more than 8 years ago | (#14834514)

This has been used for some time on submersibles. You will quite frequently see two, three, or four laser dots in video from submarines and ROVs.
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