UW Madison Computational Optics lab

Lessons of conventional imaging let scientists see around corners

Along with flying and invisibility, high on the list of every child’s aspirational superpowers is the ability to see through or around walls or other visual obstacles.

That capability is now a big step closer to reality as scientists from the University of Wisconsin–Madison and the Universidad de Zaragoza in Spain, drawing on the lessons of classical optics, have shown that it is possible to image complex hidden scenes using a projected “virtual camera” to see around barriers.

The technology is described in a report today (August 5, 2019) in the journal Nature. Once perfected, it could be used in a wide range of applications, from defense and disaster relief to manufacturing and medical imaging. The work has been funded largely by the military through the U.S. Defense Department’s Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and by NASA, which envisions the technology as a potential way to peer inside hidden caves on the moon and Mars.