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Researchers Use Smartphone to See Beyond the Line of Sight

Policewoman filming with a smartphone

Since the beginning of time, people have always wanted to be able to see what’s not in their line of sight. To see who is watching you from around a corner or if you are being followed when you’re walking alone at night. Well, after so many years of research, to be able to see on the other side of a corner might not be impossible anymore. If over the last few years experts have been trying to accomplish this by using lasers which were bouncing the light off objects you weren’t able to see, now it’s time for an upgrade.

By using videos taken with a normal, modern smartphone, they are now able to see around corners thanks to the shifts in shadow and light. And when you think about it, the idea is actually very basic and simple. Light is capable of bouncing off any object. So, if you look closely an analyze the floor that’s near a corner you might just see if an object is moving on the other side. How? By noticing the changes in shadow and light.

“Seeing” on the other side of a corner

What is interesting is that those small fluctuations cannot be seen by the naked eye. This is where the smartphone comes into play. The researchers used normal footage taken with an iPhone 5S and saw those changes. However, as interesting as it may sound, there are some limits to this project. Firstly, you can see if there is an object or if it’s moving, but you cannot distinguish any other detail about it. Is it round, square, big or small? It’s a complete mystery.

Then, in order for this process to work, that object has to be in a place where there is a lot of light, so that the footage can see the shifts in shadow. Lastly, it’s imperative that the footage be stable. However, it seems like researchers are working towards finding a way to do this with a moving footage too.


According to the creators of this project, the main idea is to use it for cars. This way, the driver will be able to see around corners to notice any obstacles or pedestrians. And it makes sense because in that situation you don’t need a ton of details about that object. It’s enough to know that something in indeed there.

Image source: wikimedia



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