MIT works to make X-ray vision a reality

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — X-ray vision, a comic book fantasy for decades, is becoming a reality in a lab at MIT.

See Full Article

A group of researchers led by Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor Dina Katabi has developed software that uses variations in radio signals to recognize human silhouettes through walls and track their movements.

Researchers say the technology will be able to help health care providers and families keep closer tabs on toddlers and the elderly, and it could be a new strategic tool for law enforcement and the military.

"Think of it just like cameras, except that it's not a camera," said Fadel Adib, a researcher on the MIT team developing the device.

"It's a sensor that can monitor people and allow you to control devices just by pointing at them," he said.

Work began in 2012 to determine how wireless signals could be used to "see" what's happening in another room, said Katabi, who directs the MIT Wireless Center.

"At first we were just interested ... can you at all use wireless signals to detect what's happening in occluded spaces, behind a wall, couch, something like that," Katabi said.

"It turned out that we were able to detect that. And when we figured out we could detect that, we started asking more advanced questions: Could we use it to detect exactly how people are moving in a space if they are behind a wall?"

The device displays the signal on a screen, where the person's movements can be tracked in real time. It depicts the target as a red dot moving around the room, occupying a chair and speeding up or slowing down.

The wireless signals used to track a person's motions also can measure the individual's breathing and heart rate — and potentially identify the person based on the shape of his or her skeleton, said researcher Zach Kabelac.

"The person won't be wearing anything on them, and the person it's tracking doesn't even need to know the device is there," Kabelac said.

"If something unfortunate happens to them, like a fall, the device will contact the caregiver that they chose to alert" by generating a text message or an email, he added.

That makes health care applications especially interesting, Katabi said. But she also sees military and law enforcement possibilities — particularly in hostage situations.

"You don't want to send the police inside without knowing where the people are standing or where the hostages are," she said. "If there is someone with a gun, where they are standing?"

A company set up to market the technology, now dubbed Emerald, will spin out of the MIT lab next year, with a goal of marketing the device early in 2017, and it's expected to sell for $250-$300, Adib said. The team is working to make the device smaller and to develop an interface that will let users configure it through a smartphone app, Katabi added.

The technology raises questions about privacy rights and intrusion, and Adib said the team gave serious thought to those implications.

"The user interface will be friendly for setting it up and using it at home, but it will be very hard to use it to track someone just by pointing it at their wall," he said.

"Think of it this way: Your cellphone already has wireless signals that can traverse walls, but how many people can use these signals to actually see through walls? The reason people can't do that is that the user interface does not expose this information."

-----

Associated Press writer William J. Kole in Boston contributed to this report.



Advertisements

Latest Tech & Science News

  • New, highly hostile strain of ransomware cripple networks worldwide

    Tech & Science CTV News
    PARIS -- A new, highly virulent strain of malicious software that is crippling computers globally appears to have been sown in Ukraine, where it badly hobbled much of the government and private sector on the eve of a holiday celebrating a post-Soviet constitution. Source
  • Facebook deleting thousands of posts a week in anti-hate campaign

    Tech & Science CTV News
    NEW YORK -- Facebook said Tuesday that it deleted about 66,000 posts a week in the last two months as the social media giant cracks down on what it deems to be hate speech. The company said in a blog post that deleting posts can "feel like censorship," but that it is working on explaining its process better and improving its enforcement of hate speech. Source
  • Finding friends: Lonely elephant arrives at Los Angeles Zoo

    Tech & Science CTV News
    LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Zoo has a new elephant -- a lonely pachyderm from Fresno. The zoo says a 46-year-old Asian female named Shaunzi arrived Tuesday after being trucked 215 miles from the Fresno Chaffee Zoo in a special crate. Source
  • Facebook surpasses 2 billion users

    Tech & Science Toronto Sun
    MENLO PARK, Calif. — Facebook is reaching another milestone, announcing that it now has more than 2 billion users. CEO Mark Zuckerberg says the new marker was reached early Tuesday and in a Facebook post said that he’s proud of the role his company is playing in connecting people around the world. Source
  • Number of people using Facebook reaches 2 billion

    Tech & Science CTV News
    MENLO PARK, Calif. -- Facebook is reaching another milestone, announcing that it now has more than 2 billion users. CEO Mark Zuckerberg says the new marker was reached early Tuesday and in a Facebook post said that he's proud of the role his company is playing in connecting people around the world. Source
  • 'It's like WannaCry all over again': new ransomware attack infects computers across Europe

    Tech & Science CBC News
    A major ransomware attack on Tuesday hit computers at Russia's biggest oil company, the country's banks, Ukraine's international airport as well as global shipping firm A.P. Moller-Maersk. Moscow-based cybersecurity firm Group IB said hackers had exploited code developed by the U.S. Source
  • 'It's like WannaCry all over again': New ransomware attack infects computers around the world

    Tech & Science CBC News
    A major ransomware attack on Tuesday hit computers at Russia's biggest oil company, the country's banks, Ukraine's international airport as well as global shipping firm A.P. Moller-Maersk. Moscow-based cybersecurity firm Group IB said hackers had exploited code developed by the U.S. Source
  • 'World's largest sleep study' seeks online volunteers

    Tech & Science CBC News
    Brain scientists at a Canadian university are aiming to get a better handle on how sleep affects memory, problem solving and other cognitive functions in what they are billing as the largest such study ever to be done. Source
  • Hackers strike across Europe, sparking widespread disruption

    Tech & Science CTV News
    PARIS -- Hackers have caused widespread disruption across Europe, hitting Ukraine especially hard. Company and government officials reported serious intrusions at the Ukrainian power grid, banks and government offices. Russia's Rosneft oil company also reported falling victim to hacking, as did Danish shipping giant A.P. Source
  • New data-scrambling cyberattack causes mass disruption in Europe

    Tech & Science CTV News
    PARIS -- A new and highly virulent outbreak of malicious data-scrambling software appears to be causing mass disruption across Europe, hitting Ukraine especially hard. Company and government officials reported serious intrusions at the Ukrainian power grid, banks and government offices, where one senior official posted a photo of a darkened computer screen and the words, "the whole network is down. Source