Camera 'Can See Through Walls' By Turning Plain Surfaces Into Mirrors

Researchers have found a way to see through walls by turning normal surfaces into 'mirrors' with natural light.

The breakthrough could one day lead to cameras which can see the stars through heavy cloud, watch a chick grow inside an egg or see around corners.

Normally when light hits an opaque surface it scatters in all directions.

Because the light is scattered, it's not possible to see through or around the surface.

But a research team from the Ultra Fast Optics Group at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel say they have found a way to turn that scattered light back into an image, in real time.

The technique uses natural light - a first for such attempts to see through walls, which in the past have relied on lasers and time-consuming computeristion.

The team found a way to take the diffuse scattered light, and reform it into an image using a spacial light modulator, and allowing a computer to fine-tune the image.

The result is that a plain white surface can effectively be turned into a mirror, with the image displayed on a normal LCD screen.

"In a preliminary demonstration we have been able to image a distant object just by recording the light reflected from a piece of regular white paper," said lead researcher Yaron Silberberg to Cosmos magazine.

"This is analogous to seeing your own reflection from a piece of white sheet paper."

Other successful attempts to see around corners have been made previously - but all relied on laser light or pulses.

Further research will be needed to take the technique and made it practical for real-world applications. But expect it to turn up in the back pages of comic books eventually, if it ever makes it out of the lab.