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AI Could Help Night Vision Cameras See Color in the Dark


An example of night vision used aboard a C-17 aircraft.

Said Andrew Browne, a professor of ophthalmology at University of California, Irvine, “The ability to see in color vision, or something that looks like our normal vision, could be of value in low light conditions.”

Credit: Mysti Bicoy/U.S. Air National Guard

Night vision is typically monotone—everything the wearer can see is colored in the same hue, which is mostly shades of green. But by using varying wavelengths of infrared light and a relatively simple AI algorithm, scientists from the University of California, Irvine have been able to bring back some color into these desaturated images. Their findings are published in the journal PLOS ONE this week.

Light in the visible spectrum, similar to an FM radio, consists of many different frequencies. Both light and radio are part of the electromagnetic spectrum. But light, unlike radio waves, is measured in nanometers (characterizing its wavelength) instead of megahertz (characterizing its wave frequency). Light that the average human eye can perceive ranges from 400 to 700 nanometers in wavelength. 

The typical security camera equipped with night vision makes use of a single color and wavelength of infrared light, which is longer than 700 nanometers, to create a scene. Infrared light is part of the electromagnetic spectrum that's invisible to the naked eye. These waves have been used by scientists to study thermal energy; infrared light signals are also what some remote controls use to communicate with the television screen.

From Popular Science
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