MIT 3D Scanner - 1000x Improvement?

MIT has come up with a new polarization technique that can increase the resolution of any cheap, conventional 3D-imaging device by a factor of 1,000.


(3D scanner)
By combining the information from the Kinect depth
frame in (a) with polarized photographs, MIT researchers
reconstructed the 3-D surface shown in (c). Polarization
cues can allow coarse depth sensors like Kinect to achieve
laser scan quality (b).

The researchers’ experimental setup consisted of a Microsoft Kinect — which gauges depth using reflection time — with an ordinary polarizing photographic lens placed in front of its camera. In each experiment, the researchers took three photos of an object, rotating the polarizing filter each time, and their algorithms compared the light intensities of the resulting images.

On its own, at a distance of several meters, the Kinect can resolve physical features as small as a centimeter or so across. But with the addition of the polarization information, the researchers’ system could resolve features in the range of tens of micrometers, or one-thousandth the size.

For comparison, the researchers also imaged several of their test objects with a high-precision laser scanner, which requires that the object be inserted into the scanner bed. Polarized 3D still offered the higher resolution. A mechanically rotated polarization filter would probably be impractical in a cellphone camera, but grids of tiny polarization filters that can overlay individual pixels in a light sensor are commercially available. Capturing three pixels’ worth of light for each image pixel would reduce a cellphone camera’s resolution, but no more than the color filters that existing cameras already use.

The new paper also offers the tantalizing prospect that polarization systems could aid the development of self-driving cars. Today’s experimental self-driving cars are, in fact, highly reliable under normal illumination conditions, but their vision algorithms go haywire in rain, snow, or fog. That’s because water particles in the air scatter light in unpredictable ways, making it much harder to interpret.

In his excellent 1954 novella The Houses of Iszm, Jack Vance wrote about feeler-planes that enabled the creation of incredibly detailed 3D images in just a minute or two:

He stood rigid as feeler-planes brushed down his body. In a glass dome a three-dimensional simulacrum of himself six inches high took form.
(Read more about Jack Vance's 3D feeler-planes)

Feeler-planes were used by the Iszic to create tri-type records that were so detailed (high resolution), fingerprints were captured in three-dimensional models of the subject's hands.

Via MIT.

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