New imaging technique could extend perception of microscopes, endoscopes

Researchers at Boston University in Massachusetts have developed an imaging technique that, by using a photograph captured with a digital camera, can reconstruct the position of an opaque object and its surroundings when both are out of direct sight, according to a recent report by Nature.  

The technique is a form of “non-line-of-sight imaging," which usually requires expensive and specialized equipment to see objects around corners. This method, however, only requires a standard digital camera and may soon be applied to medical imaging technologies such as microscopes or endoscopes to improve the detection of tumors or help physicians see around bones in medical images, according to the report.  

Charles Saunders, an electrical and computer engineering graduate student at Boston University, and colleagues developed their approach to allow light to emanate from a hidden target that is blocked by an obscure object in an unknown location. The light then produces a pattern of illumination and shadow on a “relay” surface, according to the article.  

A digital camera then takes a picture of the pattern and feeds that data to a computer algorithm which analyzes the areas where the shadows are located. Finally, the algorithm estimates the position of the obscured object and produces an image of it, including its brightness and color.  

“By analyzing a series of photographs, any motion of the target could be observed and displayed on a monitor,” according to the article. “The authors’ approach can extend the perception range of ordinary cameras, and therefore enhance the equipment’s sensing capabilities.”  

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