Portable polarization-sensitive camera could be used in machine vision, autonomous vehicles, security and more

phys.org | 4/4/2017 | Staff
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When the first full-length movie made with the advanced, three-color process of Technicolor premiered in 1935, The New York Times declared "it produced in the spectator all the excitement of standing upon a peak ... and glimpsing a strange, beautiful and unexpected new world."

Technicolor forever changed how cameras—and people—saw and experienced the world around them. Today, there is a new precipice—this one, offering views of a polarized world.

Polarization - Direction - Light - Vibrates - Eye

Polarization, the direction in which light vibrates, is invisible to the human eye (but visible to some species of shrimp and insects). But it provides a great deal of information about the objects with which it interacts. Cameras that see polarized light are currently used to detect material stress, enhance contrast for object detection, and analyze surface quality for dents or scratches.

However, like the early color cameras, current-generation polarization-sensitive cameras are bulky. Moreover, they often rely on moving parts and are costly, severely limiting the scope of their potential application.

Researchers - Harvard - John - A - Paulson

Now, researchers at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) have developed a highly compact, portable camera that can image polarization in a single shot. The miniature camera—about the size of a thumb—could find a place in the vision systems of autonomous vehicles, onboard planes or satellites to study atmospheric chemistry, or be used to detect camouflaged objects.

The research is published in Science.

Research - Imaging - Federico - Capasso - Robert

"This research is game-changing for imaging," said Federico Capasso, the Robert L. Wallace Professor of Applied Physics and Vinton Hayes Senior Research Fellow in Electrical Engineering at SEAS and senior author of the paper. "Most cameras can typically only detect the intensity and color of light but can't see polarization. This camera is a new eye on reality, allowing us to reveal how light is reflected and transmitted by the world around us."

"Polarization is a feature of...
(Excerpt) Read more at: phys.org
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