By David Crane
david (at) defensereview (dot) com
Photo(s) Credit: SMU and DARPA
May 4, 2016
Last updated on 5/12/16.
DefenseReview (DR) recently received a press release on a light-based see-through-wall/see-around-corners x-ray-vision-type technology being developed researchers at the SMU Lyle School of Engineering with funding help from DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency), and it’s a really fascinating read. SMU calls the project “OMNISCIENT” (Obtaining Multipath & Non-line-of-sight Information by Sensing Coherence & Intensity with Emerging Novel Techniques–a real mouthful). DARPA just calls it “REVEAL“.
Being light-based, the OMNISCIENT/REVEAL tech is completely different from earlier millimeter-wave radar-based see-through-wall imaging technologies like Eureka Aerospace’s Impulse Synthetic Aperture Radar (ImpSAR) and Time Domain’s RV2000 SoldierVision ultra-wideband “PuleOn” radar tech, both of which DR’s covered.
The OMNISCIENT/REVEAL tech utilizes a computer algorithm to “unscramble the light that bounces off irregular surfaces to create a holographic image of hidden objects”, according to the press release. “This will allow us to build a 3-D representation – a hologram – of something that is out of view,” said Marc Christensen, dean of the Bobby B. Lyle School of Engineering at SMU and “principal investigator for the project”. The following quotes from Christensen are the most interesting portions of the press release:
“Light bounces off the smooth surface of a mirror at the same angle at which it hits the mirror, which is what allows the human eye to ‘see’ a recognizable image of the event – a reflection.”
“So the question becomes whether a computer can manipulate and process the light reflecting off a wall – unscrambling it to form a recognizable image – like light reflecting off a mirror.”
“Can a computer interpret the light bouncing around in ways that our eyes cannot?”
“For example, the speed and sophistication of signal processing (the process of converting analog transmissions into digital signals) has reached the point where we can accomplish really intensive computational tasks on handheld devices.”
“What that means is that whatever solutions we design should be easily transportable into the battlefield.”
DR certainly hopes so (all of the above), since the ability to see around corners and behind walls (although we can’t see how at the moment) when fighting in and around structures (buildings) using a lightweight, ergonomic handheld device will provide for a potential game-changing combat capability that could potentially revolutionize dynamic direct-action and urban warfare missions involving dynamic CQB/CQC (Close Quarters Battle/Close Quarters Combat) gunfighting, provided the mobile package is indeed as lightweight, ergonomic and easy to carry and use and Christensen makes it sound.
Based on what we’ve read so far, it would seem much more likely that the OMNISCIENT/REVEAL tech will be more effective for seeing around corners of structures, rather than actually seeing behind walls directly in front of you, due to its reliance on reading and analyzing light reflection (and possibly refraction, as well), but we’ll try to get confirmation on this.
The anticipated funding cost is currently $4.87M (Million) over 4 years, so the actual total project cost shouldn’t exceed $10-15M.
A little humor. Anyway, SMU will be working with engineers from Northwestern, Rice and Harvard.
Organizational Contact Info:
Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)
675 North Randolph Street
Arlington, VA 22203-2114
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