With the help of lasers, cameras can track moving objects hidden around corners, scientists say. The finding could one day help vehicles see around blind corners to avoid collisions, researchers added.
Laser scanners are now regularly used to capture 3-D images of items. The scanners bounce pulses of light off targets, and because light travels at a constant speed, the devices can measure the amount of time it takes for the pulses to return.
This measurement reveals how far the light pulses have traveled, which can be used to recreate what the objects look like in three dimensions.
Prior research suggested that lasers could help locate items hidden around corners by firing light pulses at surfaces near the objects. These surfaces can act like mirrors, scattering the light onto any obscured targets.
By analyzing the light that is reflected off the objects and other surfaces back to the scanner, researchers can reconstruct the shapes of the items - for instance, an 8-inch-tall (20 centimeters) mannequin. [Science Fact or Fiction? The Plausibility of 10 Sci-Fi Concepts]
"The ability to see behind a wall is rather remarkable," said the study's senior author Daniele Faccio, a physicist at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, Scotland.
One potential application of this research is a system that helps cars see around bends to avoid collisions. "If the other vehicle or person is arriving too fast, implying that there could be a collision, then the system could feed this information to the car, which could then autonomously decide to slow down," Faccio told Live Science.
However, one of the weaknesses of previous research was the length of time it took to reconstruct the image of an object. This prevented researchers from being able to use this method to track moving items in real time.
Now, researchers have found a way to see moving objects hidden behind corners in just seconds instead of hours.