Graduate student Marina Alterman and Dr. Yoav Schechner test the Stella Maris camera. Graduate student Marina Alterman and Dr. Yoav Schechner test the Stella Maris camera. Graduate student Marina Alterman and Dr. Yoav Schechner test the Stella Maris camera. (Photo: Technion-Israel Institute of Technology)

Underwater camera sees above the surface without distortion

Device could eliminate the need for periscopes.

Researchers at Technion-Israel Institute of Technology have developed a new camera that may have a groundbreaking impact on the marine sciences. They’re calling it the Stella Maris (Latin for “Star of the Sea” and short for Stellar Marine Refractive Imaging Sensor), and they say it allows divers to see above the surface without a traditional periscope.

cameracropped Dr. Tali Treibitz examines the underwater camera. (Photo: Technion-Israel Institute of Technology)

Lead researcher Dr. Yoav Schechner and graduate student Marina Alterman recently presented Stella Maris at a conference on computational photography in California. Alterman told From the Grapevine that the pair received “very positive feedback” about the device and its potential.

Stella Maris is composed of a camera, a porous sheet that lets in light, a glass diffuser and mirrors. As it sits on the sea floor, the device uses sunlight to correct any distortion caused by water waves – a common problem in periscopes – and projects an image into the camera.

“We believe that such submerged systems on a sea floor might be useful in biology research,” Alterman said. “They can monitor habits of seabirds, their flights in air, when they plunge into water and swim for prey.”

Daniel Veikhermann tests the Stella Maris camera. Graduate student Daniel Veikhermann tests the Stella Maris camera. (Photo: Technion-Israel Institute of Technology)

The science behind Stella Maris is similar to techniques used in astronomy. “In ground-based astronomy, telescopes use a wavefront sensor to sense the atmosphere by imaging a known guide star and then correcting for it in real time using adaptive optics. In our setting, the guide star is the sun,” Alterman said.

Alterman, Schechner and former student Yohay Swirski conducted their research at the Schechner Hybrid Imaging Lab, part of Technion’s electrical engineering department.

Alterman said the camera has not been marketed yet and is still in the prototype stage. “We plan to improve the device in the future,” she said.

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