SMU School of Engineering Leads Multi-Institution DARPA Project to Test Limits of Coherence Imaging Capability

The SMU School of Engineering is already known for its many triumphs.  Now it’s adding to its reputation for leadership.

There Marc Christensen, dean of the Bobby B. Lyle School of Engineering, leads a multi-institutional team working under the complicated acronym “REVEAL” determined to see the detail behind the light that objects scatter.

His team at SMU is funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), and using 3-D representation technology–like the kind that makes a hologram–in order to catch glimpses of the detail of objects that are traditionally obscured from view.

The REVEAL program is working to develop a comprehensive theoretical framework to guide the development of new imaging hardware and software technologies.

The program will test the bounds of the developed framework and the functionality of the new imaging technologies via a challenge problem that calls for full 3-D scene reconstruction from a single viewpoint. It seeks to enable maximum information extraction from complex scenes by using all photon pathways and leveraging light’s multiple degrees of freedom.

That’s the science behind it anyway. The simpler explanation comes down to understanding the broader application of light, its waves, the time it takes to travel between points, and how mirrors function.

“Your eyes can’t do that,” Christensen said. “It doesn’t mean we can’t do that,” describing how his project employs different technologies than those that are engineered for direct imaging and work off of processing an array of light like the computer vision and computer graphic techniques of Hollywood.

Christensen further explained that when you’re able to process that scattered light and render images with it, seeing around that corner or past that opaque object suddenly becomes possible. Three dimensions become visible when our current techniques only account for two. Those kinds of possibilities make this application of technology worthy of future consideration.

The team making this project possible also includes several researchers from SMU and additional teams from Harvard, Rice and Northwestern universities.

Co-investigators for the SMU team include Duncan MacFarlane, Bobby B. Lyle: Centennial Chair in Engineering Entrepreneurship and professor of electrical engineering; and Prasanna Rangarajan, a research assistant professor who directs the Lyle School’s Photonics Architecture Lab.

Kate Morgan