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Camera uses lasers to see around corners

A camera currently in development can see around corners by imaging the behaviour of photons at 15 billion frames per second.

Screenshot by Michelle Starr/CNET

Technically, you can already take photos around corners with a periscope rig, but a new camera in development takes a different approach: photographing the movement of light itself with a system of lasers, and a camera that can image them faster than 15 billion frames per second.

Created by the Creative Cameras team, a collaboration between the University of Glasgow and Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, the camera is able to reconstruct images of what is hidden from view by analysing intense burst of laser light, fired 4000 times per second. When this light bounces off an object around a corner, it is recorded by the camera's 32x32 pixel sensor at a rate of 15 billion fps.

This information is then sent to a computer, which analyses the speed at which the photons return. This allows algorithms to create a reconstruction of the object around the corner.

Well, in theory; according to Motherboard, the camera hasn't actually achieved this yet, although the team -- led by Dr Jonathan Leach -- has performed computer simulations of how it would work, and is about to move onto the next step: testing it in a lab.

If the team can figure out how to get the technology to work in real-time, potential applications include search and rescue, where it could be used to locate people in hazardous areas; medical imaging; military and surveillance applications, of course; or everyday home security.

The camera is on display at the Royal Society's Summer Science Exhibition, along with two other devices: a camera that can capture images with just a single pixel, and a camera that can take 3D images with a single lens.