Thursday, July 19, 2012

A paradigm shift in lighting

It’s drummed in to us from the moment we first start learning about machine vision: lighting is the most important thing. So we spend the early feasibility stages of every project working out how to throw light onto the object we want images of.

What if we reversed that thinking? What if we could selectively turn light off to leave just the rays that are of value? Think of it as anti-light.

That’s my interpretation of work underway at Carnegie Mellon University. A team of researchers has been working on a familiar problem – poor visibility when driving in rain and snow. You know how the light from your headlights reflects back? Well they asked, what if we could turn off the light before it struck an individual raindrop or snowflake?

If you think that sounds far-fetched, take a look at “Toward a Smart Automotive Headlight for

Seeing Through Rain and Snow” on the CMU website.

This easy-to-follow, equation-free presentation shows how a high-speed camera and imaging software is used to determine the position, direction and speed of individual raindrops. Then, based on a prediction of where the drop is heading, the light that would fall on it, and reflect back to the motorist, is turned off.

It’s an intriguing idea and I can’t wait to see a machine vision entrepreneur pick it up and run with it. Imagine being able to turn off the individual LEDs that are causing glare in an image. Now that would be useful!

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