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This camera is capable of detecting objects in a room simply by pointing a laser through the door lock

Over the last few years, different techniques have made it possible to improve the viewing angles of the cameras, taking advantage of extra functionalities such as lasers. With this we can for example “see” what is behind a corner or a wall. Now a new technique allows scan an entire room by simply pointing a laser through the keyhole.


This is an experiment by researchers at Stanford University. They have developed a system for otake pictures without the camera being present in the environment where the picture is obtained. By the method of non-line-of-sight (NLOS) analyzes how the light emitted by the laser bounces to “scan” the object that is not directly seen.

Current NLOS imaging technology requires the camera to scan a large area of ​​the visible surface for indirect light paths. However, with the technique of these researchers that comes down to just a laser pointer through a small hole.

Analyzing the reflection of a laser pointer

Essentially the system with the camera outside the room aims a laser light through a small hole. DDepending on how that light bounces, the camera can detect what objects are in there. If a hidden object within that room moves during the imaging time, the technology can capture projections of the hidden object’s shape.

Keyhole Prototype Scaled

When moving objects within the room alters how photons from the laser bounce back and forth down the little hole. The camera and with the help of artificial intelligence analyzes these rebounds to detect where they come from and what they are like in order to form a 2D image of the object.

Keyhole ExperimentsKeyhole Experiments

In the tests the researchers they managed to detect a mannequin inside a room, as well as a series of letters. The results are certainly not very detailed and the mannequin looks more like a ghostly image than a human. However, they assure that by applying artificial intelligence later, they are able to recognize most objects.

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What is the use of this? Beyond trying to guess objects within a room, it can be really useful for the automotive industry and autonomous cars for example, in order to detect in time what can happen on the road and behind buildings. It can also be useful for authorities when analyzing a dangerous environment for example.

More information | Stanford Computational Imaging Lab