Researchers build one-pixel cameras that can take 3D pictures

Issued: Wed, 19 Jun 2013 14:08:00 BST

A team at the University of Glasgow has developed a camera with only one pixel that can nevertheless make 3D models of objects, including ones featuring light beyond the visible spectrum.

It works by having a projector beaming a rapidly shifting black and white pattern -- "a bit like a crossword puzzle" according to Miles Padgett, the professor of optics in charge of the project -- onto an object. With each pattern, the amount of white light that reflects off the object back onto the camera indicates the percentage of the white from the pattern overlaps the shape. An algorithm can combine these readings with the shapes of the patterns into a detailed 2D image.

"Four detectors give images, each of which contain shadows, giving us clues about the 3D shape of the object," Padgett said. "Combining the four images using a well-known technique known as 'shape from shade' allows us to create a full 3D image of the object.