Conventional optical imaging systems today largely limit themselves to the measurement of light intensity, providing two-dimensional renderings of three-dimensional scenes and ignoring significant amounts of additional information that may be carried by captured light. For example, many photons traverse complex paths punctuated by multiple bounces prior to entering the aperture of a camera or other imager—a process through which these photons pick up information about their surroundings. Beyond such directional variability, light enjoys other aspects or degrees of freedom—including variations in propagation time, polarization state and spectral content, as well as wave-related properties such as coherence, diffraction and interference—all of which provide potential mechanisms by which light can acquire and convey information. Most of this information remains untapped today.
DARPA’s Revolutionary Enhancement of Visibility by Exploiting Active Light-fields (REVEAL) program seeks to unlock information in photons that current imaging systems discard. The REVEAL program aims to develop a comprehensive theoretical framework to enable maximum information extraction from complex scenes by using all the photon pathways of captured light and leveraging light’s multiple degrees of freedom. The goal is for this framework to guide the development of new imaging hardware and software technologies. Furthermore, 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 3D scene reconstruction from a single viewpoint. By contrast, current light-capturing methods require multiple viewpoints for rendering a scene in 3D.