One of the most dangerous conditions for drivers is thick fog. Stanford researchers have developed a new device that can see through clouds and fog and could be extremely important for future autonomous vehicles. Stanford’s technology uses technology similar to autonomous car technology, enhanced using a highly efficient algorithm developed by the researchers.
The algorithm can reconstruct three-dimensional hidden scenes based on the movement of individual light particles, so-called photons. The system was able to successfully reconstruct shapes obscured by a 1 inch thick piece of foam. Researcher Gordon Wetzstein says many imaging techniques can make images look a little better, but the team̵
Another possible use for the system developed by Stanford researchers is space exploration. The technology could enable satellites to map the earth’s surface and other planets through a hazy atmosphere or clouds. The system couples a laser to an extremely sensitive photon detector on the table in order to record every piece of laser light that hits it. As the laser scans an obstacle such as foam, an occasional photon manages to get through the foam.
The photons that pass through the foam hit the object hidden behind and get back through the foam to reach the detector. The algorithm used in the system uses software to track these photons and when they hit the detector to reconstruct the hidden object in 3D.
Researchers admit that this is not the first system that can reveal hidden objects through scattering environments, but it does circumvent limitations associated with other techniques. Some of these other systems require knowledge of how far an object is, but the Stanford system does not.