In the future, the technology of computational photography may guide rescue robots, or endoscopes that need to peer around artery blockages. In camera phones, the technology can already merge two exposures of the same image. One day, it could even change the focus of a picture you’ve already taken.
At the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, one experimental camera has no lens at all: it uses reflected light, computer processing and other tools to let it see around corners.
Ramesh Raskar, leader of the Camera Culture research group at M.I.T., aims his camera and an ultrafast laser attachment at a door half-open into a model room containing simple objects. The laser — the equivalent of a flash — fires pulses shorter than a trillionth of a second. Light bounces off the door, scatters into the room, hits the objects within and then bounces back to the detector. Dr. Raskar traces those bouncing echoes of light photon by photon, based on when and where they land.