August 10, 2011

New 3D Imaging System Developed At MIT

MIT researchers have developed a new imaging system that could help manufacturers inspect their products, forensics experts identify weapons, and doctors identify cancers.

The team combined physical interface with computer-vision algorithms to create a simple, portable imaging system that can achieve resolutions previously possible only with large and expensive lab equipment.

The new device could help provide manufacturers with a way to inspect products too large to fit under a microscope and could also have uses in medicine, forensics and biometrics.

The GelSight acquires surface textures and shapes by pressing a block of clear rubber onto them, revealing high-resolution 3D details.

Once an object is pressed against the rubber, its reflective skin on one side distorts to determine the shape of the object. 

A camera images the distortion multiple times through the other side of the rubber to help produce 3D images.

The technology creates 3D imagery almost instantly without expensive gear like confocal microscopes.

"I think it's just a dandy thing," Paul Debevec, an associate professor of graphics research at the University of Southern California, said in a press release.

"It's absolutely amazing what they get out of it."

Debevec's lab has been investigating the use of polarized light to compensate for the irregular reflective properties of some surfaces, but, he says, "they're getting detail at the level that's, for little patches, well more than an order of magnitude better than I've ever seen measured for these kinds of surfaces."

The device could be used to analyze fingerprints, bullet casings, product integrity, skin moles, and biometric features.

The GelSight was originally reported during a 2009 paper, but is being published in an updated paper at this week's Siggraph 2011 computer graphics conference in Vancouver, British Columbia.


Image 1: Not only do the images produced by GelSight, a new, portable imaging system from researchers in the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, have a resolution that previously required expensive laboratory equipment, but they're 3-D, too. Here, GelSight images particles of ink spelling the word 'ink' on a piece of paper. Credit: MIT/Micah Kimo Johnson

Image 2: The crystals on the surface of an emery board (top) have light-reflective properties that make their structure difficult to determine. GelSight effectively coats the crystals with a layer of metallic paint, clarifying their structure (bottom). Credit: MIT/Micah Kimo Johnson


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