Lasers used to detect handprint.

DIY Laser Speckle Imaging Uncovers Hidden Details

It sure sounds like “laser speckle imaging” is the sort of thing you’d need grant money to experiment with, but as [anfractuosity] recently demonstrated, you can get some very impressive results with a relatively simple hardware setup and some common open source software packages. In fact, you might already have all the components required to pull this off in your own workshop right now and just not know it.

Anyone who’s ever played with a laser pointer is familiar with the sparkle effect observed when the beam shines on certain objects. That’s laser speckle, and it’s created by the beam reflecting off of microscopic variations in the surface texture and producing optical interference. While this phenomenon largely prevents laser beams from being effective direct lighting sources, it can be used as a way to measure extremely minute perturbations in what would appear to be an otherwise flat surface.

In this demonstration, [anfractuosity] has combined a simple red laser pointer with a microscope’s 25X objective lens to produce a wider and less intense beam. When this diffused beam is cast onto a wall, the speckle pattern generated by the surface texture can plainly be seen. What’s not obvious to the naked eye is that touching the wall with your hand actually produces a change in the speckle pattern. But if you take high-resolution before and after shots, the images can be run through OpenCV to highlight the differences and reveal a ghostly hand-print.

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HOPE XII: Make Your Own Holograms

Prior to this weekend I had assumed making holograms to be beyond the average hacker’s reach, either in skill or treasure. I was proven wrong by a Club-Mate box full of electronics, and an acrylic jig perched atop an automotive inner tube. At the Hope Conference, Tommy Johnson was sharing his hacker holography in a workshop that let a few lucky attendees make their own holograms on site!

The technique used here depends on interference patterns rather than beam splitting. A diffused laser beam is projected through holographic film onto the subject of the hologram — say a bouquet of flowers like in the video below. Photons from that beam reflect from the bouquet and pass back through the film a second time. Since light is a form of electromagnetic radiation that travels as a wave, anywhere that two peaks (one from the beam the other from the reflected light) align on the film, exposure occurs. With just a 1/2 second exposure the film is ready to be developed, and if everything went right you have created a hologram.

Simple, right? In theory, at least. In practice Tommy’s been doing this for nearly 30 years and has picked up numerous tips along the way. Let’s take a look at the hardware he brought for the workshop.

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