YOU CAN’T SEE the bunny, but the picosecond laser certainly can. In a lab at Stanford, engineers have set up a weird contraption, hiding a toy bunny behind a T-shaped wall. And their complex system of computation and rapidly firing lasers can see around that corner.
So, too, could the self-driving cars of the future. At least that’s the idea behind this technique, which uses the flight paths of the photons in lasers to calculate the shape and position of hidden objects—be they bunnies or passing pedestrians.
It’s not an entirely new idea. This system deploys the same very, very precise timing that drives the laser-spewing lidar on a self-driving car. Lidar builds a 3-D map of an environment by calculating how long it takes for all those photons to bounce off object.