27/11/2013 06:28 GMT | Updated 27/01/2014 05:59 GMT

'Speed Of Light' Camera Can Take 3D Pictures For $500

In this Thursday, June 27, 2013 photo, a laser is redirected through a prism in the process of examining art with pump-probe lasers at Duke University in Durham, N.C. The North Carolina Museum of Art is working with Duke University?s Center for Molecular and Biomolecular Imaging using pump-probe lasers to clean and examine art. Pump-probe laser imaging is a technique originally designed by Dr. Warren S. Warren, director of CMBI at Duke, to use in melanoma diagnoses. The technology is now being applied to art, allowing art conservators to better recognize the paints or other materials used when the work was originally created. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

A new 'speed of light' camera has been demonstrated which can take 3D photographs of translucent objects.

The "nano-camera", which costs just $500 to build, was built by a team at the world-famous MIT Media Lab.

The camera is based on similar technology to that inside Microsoft's Kinect motion-gaming camera, in which the time it takes for light to bounce off a surface and return to a sensor is used to figure out its distance and location.

But the new camera is special in that it works on near-transparent objects, and is not fooled by rain or fog. That's because it uses a technique usually seen in telecoms, whereby information itself is encoded in the light pulse, and used to work out exactly when it was sent - improving the accuracy.

The potential implications for improved collision-avoidance cameras on cars, motion-gaming devices and gesture-based controls on smartphones are significant, the team at MIT said.

"By solving the multipath problem, essentially just by changing the code, we are able to unmix the light paths and therefore visualize light moving across the scene," said MIT's Achuta Kadambi.

"So we are able to get similar results to the $500,000 camera, albeit of slightly lower quality, for just $500."

Check out more details on how the camera works over at