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Boffins make camera that can see through fog

Boffins at MIT have invented a camera that could help motorists see through thick fog.

When driving through thick fog there’s little you can do other than take it steady or wait until it subsides. But that may well change thanks to scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who have invented a camera that could be used to peer through thick fog.

The camera uses a technology called Time of Flight, which involves measuring the time it takes for long pulses of light to go from the light source, bounce off an object and return. Because light travels at a constant speed, scientists can use the time data to map out a 3D picture of an object or objects.

In motoring terms this would allow the camera to differentiate between heavy fog and the bumper of a car in front. This information could then be relayed to the driver, allowing him or her to effectively see when visibility would otherwise be extremely limited.

“Using our technique you can generate 3D models of translucent or near-transparent objects,” MIT engineer Achuta Kadambi explained. “We can measure the range of transparent objects and looking through diffusing material.”

Similar technology is already being used by consumers. Microsoft’s Kinect, for example, uses a similar system for motion tracking although it does struggle with more complicated scenes where transparency and translucency are present and light behaves differently.

MIT says the camera, which uses Nanophotography, can be built for £300. Imagine the combination of a head-up display overlaying what the fog-view camera is picking up as you drive along ─ that would make driving a lot safer and it could come as a reasonably priced optional extra.

Check out the video below to see the camera in action while we wait for MIT to make the camera a reality.



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