The patent's assignee is
News editors obtained the following quote from the background information supplied by the inventors: "An image sensor, such as a charge-coupled device (CCD) or focal plane array (FPA), converts photons received from a scene into electrons. The electrons can be used to generate an image of the scene. The electrons do not directly identify particular attributes of the sensed photons, such as wavelength, polarization, or phase. Such attributes may be useful in a variety of different applications, including, for example, in applications where the image is analyzed to identify objects in the scene because information such as wavelength, polarization, and phase may help properly identify objects in the scene.
"Color information in a conventional digital camera is determined by allowing only photons of certain wavelengths to be passed to particular sensing elements of the image sensor, typically through the use of a color filter array (CFA), such as a Bayer filter, or the like. A CFA, however, allows for the determination of only a finite number of colors from a scene, typically three colors, and does not facilitate the identification of other attributes of photons that may be useful, such as polarization or phase. Multiple different cameras with different CFAs could be used simultaneously to capture different wavelength information, but such an arrangement increases costs and complexity."
As a supplement to the background information on this patent application, VerticalNews correspondents also obtained the inventors' summary information for this patent application: "The embodiments relate to mechanisms for separating a beam of photons into multiple photon sub-beams based on an attribute of the photons, encoding the multiple photon sub-beams, optically combining the multiple photon sub-beams into a combined photon beam, and simultaneously imaging the encoded photon sub-beams with a detection device in real-time. In one embodiment, a method is provided wherein a beam of photons associated with a scene is separated into a plurality of photon sub-beams based on an attribute of the photons. The attribute of the photons used for separation may comprise, for example, a wavelength attribute, a phase attribute, or a polarization attribute. Thus, each photon sub-beam may comprise a different wavelength or wavelength band, a different phase or phase band, or a different polarization or polarization band.
"At least two photon sub-beams are optically encoded to generate at least two corresponding encoded photon sub-beams based on corresponding encoding functions. In one embodiment, each encoding function alters phase and/or magnitude attributes of the photon sub-beams in a manner that can subsequently be decoded based on the particular encoding function. Each encoding function differs. In one embodiment, the at least two photon sub-beams are encoded by passing the at least two photon sub-beams through respective optically filtering patterns that correspond to the respective encoding functions to alter phase and/or magnitude attributes of the at least two-photon sub-beams based on the respective encoding functions.
"The encoded photon sub-beams are optically combined to generate a combined photon beam. In one embodiment, the encoded photon sub-beams are optically combined by focusing the encoded photon sub-beams onto a dispersive element, such as a re-compress element. The combined photon beam is then detected with a detection device, such as a charge-coupled device (CCD), focal plane array (FPA), or the like. The detection device generates image data based on the detected combined photon beam. The image data is decoded based on the corresponding encoding functions to generate sub-images, each sub-image corresponding to one of the at least two photon sub-beams.
"In another embodiment, a device is provided. The device includes a photon beam separator that is configured to separate a beam of photons associated with a scene into a plurality of photon sub-beams based on an attribute of the photons. The device also includes an optical encoder that is configured to optically encode at least two photon sub-beams of the plurality of photon sub-beams to generate at least two corresponding encoded photon sub-beams. Each encoded photon sub-beam is encoded based on a corresponding encoding function. The device further includes an optical combiner that is configured to optically combine the encoded photon sub-beams to generate a combined photon beam. A detector is configured to detect the combined photon beam and, based on the detected combined photon beam, generate image data. A decoder is configured to decode the image data based on the plurality encoding functions to generate a plurality of sub-images. Each sub-image corresponds to one of the at least two photon sub-beams.
"Those skilled in the art will appreciate the scope of the present disclosure and realize additional aspects thereof after reading the following detailed description of the preferred embodiments in association with the accompanying drawing figures.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
"The accompanying drawing figures incorporated in and forming a part of this specification illustrate several aspects of the disclosure, and together with the description serve to explain the principles of the disclosure.
"FIG. 1 is a functional block diagram of a device in which embodiments may be practiced;
"FIG. 2 is a flowchart of a method for obtaining information from a scene according to one embodiment;
"FIGS. 3A-3C are block diagrams illustrating optical encoding of photon sub-beams according to one embodiment;
"FIG. 4 illustrates an example optical mask according to one embodiment;
"FIG. 5 illustrates an example optical mask according to another embodiment;
"FIG. 6 illustrates a method for obtaining information from a scene according to one embodiment;
"FIG. 7 is a block diagram of a device according to one embodiment;
"FIG. 8 is a block diagram of a device according to another embodiment; and
"FIG. 9 is a block diagram of a device according to yet another embodiment."
For additional information on this patent application, see: Twede, David R.; Muise, Robert R.; Vicker, Del E.; Vanstone, Gary. Photon Separation, Encoding, Multiplexing and Imaging. Filed
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