MIT camera can ‘see’ around corners by analyzing nearly invisible shadows

If you drive, chances are that you’ve picked up the ability to “see around corners” by looking for visual clues such as another car’s headlights on the road when you’re coming up to a turn. Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) have been attempting to solve that same problem for autonomous cars, courtesy of a new camera system which uses almost invisible information about light reflections to detect objects or people that are otherwise hidden in a scene, and measure their speed and trajectory — all in real time.

“Our system uses video of how light reflects on the ground to be able to detect moving objects around the corner from the camera,” Katie Bouman, a PhD from MIT CSAIL who worked on the project, told Digital Trends. “For example, imagine walking down an L-shaped hallway, and there’s a wall between you and some objects around the corner. Those objects reflect a very small amount of light on the ground in front of you, which is referred to as the ‘penumbra.’ Because different slices of the hidden scene are being reflected from different points on the ground, you can recover and interpret how light is changing in the hidden scene over time.”

mit camera see round corners penumbra diagram with more detail  credit csail
MIT CSAIL
MIT CSAIL

MIT’s system uses video of that penumbra to create a series of one-dimensional images which cumulatively reveal information about things that are moving around the corner. To be clear: The technology isn’t able to see identifying details of particular objects, just the fact that there are moving objects. However, it could still be extraordinarily useful.

“The ability to see around obstructions would be valuable for many tasks, including emergency response and self-driving cars,” Bouman continued. “For instance, someday we could use this sort of technology to alert drivers to pedestrians who are about to dart out into the road. There’s also the possibility of using it in hostage situations [or] in search-and-rescue, like when firefighters are trying to find people in burning buildings.”

Next up, the lab hopes to get this technology working for cameras that are attached to moving objects (kind of a vital step when you’re dealing with car technology!), as well as making it sufficiently robust to account for light conditions that are constantly changing. The tech is unlikely to be ready for commercialization any time soon, but there’s no reason why CornerCameras — as MIT is calling the technology — couldn’t one day be as integral a part of our cars as parking sensors.

Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Booze-filled ski poles and crypto piggy banks

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Emerging Tech

Self-driving dirt rally vehicle offers crash course in autonomous car safety

Georgia Tech's AutoRally initiative pushes self-driving cars to their limit by getting scaled-down autonomous vehicles to drive really, really fast and aggressively on dirt roads. Here's why.
Product Review

The all-new 3 Series proves BMW can still build a compelling sport sedan

Seat time in the entry-level BMW 330i ($41,425) and M340i xDrive ($54,995) will test the German automaker’s commitment to driving dynamics, powertrain refinement, and cutting edge technology.
Cars

Driving a prototype 2020 Passat at Volkswagen’s Arizona Proving Ground

Volkswagen’s Arizona Proving Ground is where new cars are tested to the breaking point, including the 2020 Passat midsize sedan. Ride along as the new Passat completes testing ahead of its 2019 launch.
Emerging Tech

Bright ‘hyperactive’ comet should be visible in the sky this weekend

An unusual green comet, 46P/Wirtanen, will be visible in the night sky this month as it makes its closest approach to Earth in 20 years. It may even be possible to see the comet without a telescope.
Emerging Tech

Gorgeous images show storms and cloud formations in the atmosphere of Jupiter

NASA's Juno mission arrived at Jupiter in 2016 and has been collecting data since then. NASA has shared an update on the progress of the mission as it reaches its halfway point, releasing stunning images of the planet as seen from orbit.
Emerging Tech

Meet the MIT scientist who’s growing semi-sentient cyborg houseplants

Elowan is a cybernetic plant that can respond to its surroundings. Tethered by a few wires and silver electrodes, the plant-robot hybrid can move in response to bioelectrochemical signals that reflect the plant’s light demands.
Emerging Tech

Beautiful image of young planets sheds new light on planet formation

Researchers examining protoplanetary disks -- the belts of dust that eventually form planets -- have shared fascinating images of the planets from their survey, showing the various stages of planet formation.
Emerging Tech

Delivery robot goes up in flames while out and about in California

A small meal-delivery robot suddenly caught fire in Berkeley, California, on Friday. The blaze was quickly tackled and no one was hurt, but the incident is nevertheless a troubling one for the fledgling robot delivery industry.
Emerging Tech

High-tech dancing robot turns out to be a guy in a costume

A Russian TV audience was impressed recently by an adult-sized "robot" that could dance and talk. But when some people began pointing out that its actions were a bit odd, the truth emerged ... it was a fella in a robot suit.
Emerging Tech

MIT’s smart capsule could be used to release drugs in response to a fever

Researchers have developed a 3D-printed capsule which can monitor patients' vital signs, transmit this information to a connected device, and release drugs in response to symptoms.
Emerging Tech

‘Crop duster’ robot is helping reseed the Great Barrier Reef with coral

In a world first, an undersea robot has delivered microscopic coral larvae to the Great Barrier Reef. Meet Larvalbot: the robot "crop duster" which dispenses coral babies on troubled reefs.
Features

Cities looking to get smart take a lesson from an iconic shopping mall

From Disney World to the Mall of America, public venues are becoming microcosms for smart city projects. We dove into both, to show what government officials can learn – and what you can expect from your city.
Photography

Forget painting-style transfers, this A.I. creates realistic portraits of fake people

Do these images look computer-generated? Nvidia researchers recently published a paper on a new variation on style transfer artificial intelligence that's able to generate entirely new portraits.