Cameras that can record information that is invisible to the human eye: it may be not only a visionary idea. A new scanning technique permits us to obtain 3D images and detect wavelengths that our visual system is not able to see, far beyond those digital cameras are currently capable of.

Described in Science, the 3D computational imaging, or "ghost" imaging technique has been created by a British research group at the University of Glasgow. The method consists in illuminating an object and collecting the reflected light with single-pixel detectors. The procedure is repeated from four different locations to create the full image in 3D.

This system doesn’t require complex procedures: it can produce detailed images of objects in just a few seconds, with affordable costs.

As with the human visual system, the artificial devices capture images in two dimensions before elaborating and turning them three-dimensional. In order to make this, the current 3D scanning techniques need expensive optical components, such as lenses and lasers. Plus, these techniques can be only used with specific wavelengths, while the new method is very simplified and doesn't require lenses.

“A more-portable version of the system could be created quite easily, making it much more practical to use outside the lab” explains research assistant Matthew Edgar. He adds: “It could be used to look for the telltale gases which leak from the ground where oil can be found, for example, or it could be tuned into the terahertz range to probe just below the skin to search for tumors or other medical conditions. We plan to continue working on the system and perhaps working with commercial partners to bring a version to market in the future”.

A camera with an enhanced eyesight: one of our most desired superpowers may finally become true.

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