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Shark Science

New MIT Camera Takes 3D Photos in the Dark 45

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the point-clouds-in-the-dark dept.
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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New MIT Camera Takes 3D Photos in the Dark

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  • Meh (Score:5, Funny)

    by bob_super (3391281) on Monday December 02, 2013 @09:15PM (#45580183)

    Doesn't matter, you WILL step on the Lego.

    • by couchslug (175151)

      "Doesn't matter, you WILL step on the Lego."

      Good thing anti-personnel mine designers never figured that out.

  • by sunderland56 (621843) on Monday December 02, 2013 @09:21PM (#45580223)

    > a single photon per pixel

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

    • by Anonymous Coward

      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: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Tablizer (95088)

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

        Is that what you call dark humor?

      • Check out your AD&D Rulebook.

        That is the difference between darkvision and nightvision.

    • by Charliemopps (1157495) on Monday December 02, 2013 @09:34PM (#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.

      • by Anonymous Coward

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

      • by Tablizer (95088)

        "Dark" means you can't see what you just stubbed your toe on.

      • by benlad (1368001)
        You could say a normal camera can take pictures in the dark with a flash. This one uses a laser.
      • by Threni (635302)

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

    • by AK Marc (707885)
      What would a picture capture in the complete absence of all photons? Other wavelengths? reflected wavelengths?
    • by c0lo (1497653)

      > 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.

      • 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.

        • by gstoddart (321705)

          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 milita

          • 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.

    • by kimvette (919543) on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @03:55AM (#45581727) Homepage Journal

      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.

      • 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.
        • 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 lo
    • by gauthamg (2427650)
      Maybe they measure in moles for quantity and decided to round off!
  • i'm not buying it until they shrink the pixels to zero too.

  • New Camera? Nope. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by enoz (1181117) on Monday December 02, 2013 @09:33PM (#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

    • 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 (Score:5, Funny)

    by Tablizer (95088) on Monday December 02, 2013 @09:58PM (#45580431) Homepage Journal

    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.

  • other applications (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 02, 2013 @10:55PM (#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.

    • by raynet (51803)

      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.

      • 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.

  • that photons are quantized. Otherwise, I bet those MIT guys could do it with even less than one photon per pixel.

  • Neighbor Pron

    Obviously

  • Wait, this is real?
  • by Anonymous Coward

    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 light

  • by dutchwhizzman (817898) on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @06:39AM (#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".
  • "...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...

  • Get ready for a whole new slew of 'sex tapes' ;-)

  • by umafuckit (2980809) on Tuesday December 03, 2013 @09:26AM (#45582687)
    I don't know about the 3-D aspect, but the level of detail these guys can get back is crazy: http://www.nature.com/news/stealth-camera-takes-pictures-virtually-in-the-dark-1.14260 [nature.com] Compare the t-shirt text in the first and last images. It's almost like those shitty scenes in CSI where information seems to come from nowhere.

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