MIT’s Camera Culture Group whipped up a “virtual slow-motion camera” that is an array of 500 sensors each triggered at a trillionth-of-a second delay.
The assembly, which cost $250,000, was created using a streak camera, a rotating mirror, several other mirrors, a pulsing laser and a series of algorithms to stitch together the streak camera’s still, one dimensional snapshots of the photon moving down the bottle.
A streak camera has an aperture that’s just a narrow slit, as opposed to the wide, circular aperture found in most consumer and professional cameras.
Streak cameras have been around since the 1970s, when they were created to record the movement of particles. But they are based on the high-speed rotating drum cameras of the 1930s, which recorded transient phenomena by imprinting “streaks” of reflected light onto film, as streak camera company Hamamatsu explains.
Still, the use of computer technology and lasers that weren’t around in the 1930s has lead MIT to the eye-popping (literally) breakthrough of today.
“Such a camera may be useful in medical imaging, industrial or scientific use, and the future, even for consumer photography,” said Media Lab Associate Professor Ramesh Raskar in the video, “In medical imaging, now we can do ultrasound with light, because one we can analyze how light will scatter volumetrically within the body.”
Plus, it's pretty damn cool to watch in action. The applications of this are pretty impressive, as the scientists explain. I'm not sure how long it will take to get machines that can use this technology to image people and structures, but it'll happen in my lifetime for sure.