A team from the MIT Media Lab has created a new, inexpensive camera that operates at the speed of light. Dubbed the “nanocamera,” the $500 device achieves comparable results to an earlier version of the camera that cost $500,000.
The three-dimensional camera—developed by Ayush Bhandari, Refael Whyte and Achuta Kadambi, who are graduate students in Professor Ramesh Raskar’s Camera Culture Group—could be used in medical imaging and collision-avoidance detectors for cars, and to improve the accuracy of motion tracking and gesture-recognition devices used in interactive gaming.
In 2011, the team introduced a camera with the capability to capture images at a trillion frames per second—fast enough to capture light moving through objects.
How did the team create a camera that’s a thousand times less expensive? Using off-the-shelf LEDs and technology comparable to second-generation Kinect devices for the Microsoft Xbox.
“So it’s going to go from expensive to cheap thanks to video games, and that should shorten the time before people start wondering what it can be used for,” he says. “And by the time that happens, the MIT group will have a whole toolbox of methods available for people to use to realize those dreams.”