With a just a single megapixel, this camera can see around corners

one megapixel camera sees around corners 7999512287 1b6c44921b k
Dani Da La Cuesta / Flickr
Megapixel counts continue to climb, but some of the biggest new camera features could only be possible with a single megapixel — like photographing objects that you can’t actually see. A research group from Xi’an Jiaotong University in China led by Bin Bai recently designed a 1-megapixel camera that can photograph objects the human eye can’t even see from the same angle.

The single-megapixel shooter can photograph objects that aren’t in it’s direct line of sight, like what’s around the corner. Like traditional cameras, the new experimental shooter records light, but unlike most, the camera can capture reflected light and make out an object that’s around the corner.

The camera doesn’t need a direct line of sight to the object,  as long as it is facing light that is bouncing off that object. Light naturally bounces off objects — that’s what makes it possible for a photographer to bounce a flash off a wall for a less intense light or why taking a photo of something next to a bright green wall will give that object a green hue.

The process of taking the actual photo starts with randomizing the light that hits the camera and recording the intensity. Do that 50,000 times and software algorithms can not only put all those randomized pieces together, but from all those individual photos construct an image of the object based on only that reflected light.

While the camera will have limitations, resolution isn’t one of them. Since the camera reads the image 50,000 times, when all that data is combined, the result is a high-resolution file, despite the sensor’s 1-megapixel resolution. One of the limitations is likely going to come from those 50,000 photos — while the research team didn’t say how long it took to take that many photos with the camera, requiring that many exposures likely means the camera won’t be able to photograph moving objects.

The research group isn’t the first to attempt to build a camera that can see around corners — a group from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology received funding from the United States Department of Defense for a camera that sends out a laser that bounces off those objects. Based on the varying times when that laser comes back to the camera, a computer algorithm can develop a digital reconstruction using distances calculated all from that laser’s reflection.

The single-megapixel camera with similar capabilities is one in a growing list of products using a small, single-megapixel sensor to do things other cameras cannot — like a camera without a lens and a camera that measures only 2mm deep.

Mobile

Taking shots in the dark with Night Sight, the Pixel’s newest photo feature

The Google Pixel range has always been the home of some of the mobile world's best phone cameras. That performance is now getting even better with the introduction of the low-light Night Sight mode.
Mobile

How to take great photos with the Pixel 3, the best camera phone around

You’ve scored yourself a new Google Pixel 3 or Pixel 3 XL, and you want to take advantage of that incredible camera. We’ve got everything you need to know right here about how to snap the best photos with your Pixel 3.
Product Review

With outstanding image quality, the ‘basic’ Sony A7 III excels in every way

Replacing the four-year-old A7 II as the new entry-level model in Sony's full-frame line, the A7 III is an impressively capable camera that gives more expensive models a run for their money.
Product Review

Fewer pixels, better camera? The Nikon Z6 shows the beauty of restraint

The Nikon Z6 is the sibling to the new mirrorless Z7 -- but for some photographers, the cheaper Z6 may be the better option. Read where the $2,000 camera beats the $3,400 one (and where it doesn’t) in our Nikon Z6 review.
Social Media

Build a wish list and shop videos with Instagram’s latest shopping update

Eyeing a product on Instagram? Now there are more ways to shop from the social network. Instagram just rolled out options to save products in a collection as users can also now shop from videos.
Photography

See the National Forests like never before in these awe-inspiring drone videos

What's the difference between a National Park and a National Forest? Drones. With no ban on drones in National Forests -- at least, not yet -- filmmakers have a way to capture the immensity of these locations with stunning results.
Product Review

Airselfie 2 may as well be a GoPro stapled to a drunk hummingbird

On paper, the Airselfie 2 is marketed as flying photographer that fits in your pocket and snaps selfies from the sky. Unfortunately it’s more like a HandiCam controlled by a swarm of intoxicated bumblebees
Social Media

Addicted to Instagram? Its new ‘activity dashboard’ is here to help

Ever get that nagging feeling you're spending too much time on Instagram? Well, a new "activity dashboard" has a bunch of features designed to help you better control how you use the addictive photo-sharing app.
Photography

Photography news: Best spot for fall photos, new firmware from Fuji and Nikon

Where's the best spot to take fall photos? Michigan, according to social media and a Nikon contest. The results and more in this week's photography news, including significant firmware updates for the Fujifilm X-T3, X-H1, and GFX 50S.
Emerging Tech

DJI Mavic 2 Pro vs Mavic 2 Zoom: What’s the real difference?

DJI's Mavic 2 series drones are ready to fly -- but which one is right for you? The Mavic 2 Pro and Mavic 2 Zoom are nearly identical save for their cameras. Here's what you need to know about these powerful new UAVs.
Product Review

DJI has always been the king of drones, and the new Mavics are almost perfect

After flying both the Mavic 2 Pro and Mavic 2 Zoom for over a week, we’re convinced that these are two of the best drones that DJI has ever made.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: A.I. selfie drones, ‘invisible’ wireless chargers

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!
Deals

Cyber Monday 2018: When it takes place and where to find the best deals

Cyber Monday is still a ways off, but it's never too early to start planning ahead. With so many different deals to choose from during one of the biggest shopping holidays of the year, going in with a little know-how makes all the…