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

  • Warming climate could affect life in Arctic Ocean, says new study

    Tech & Science CBC News
    Climate change is transforming the Arctic Ocean in ways that could permanently alter the food chain and impact ocean species, according to a new study. The study, published in the journal Science Advances, looked at the concentration of the chemical element radium-228 in the central Arctic Ocean and found that between 2007 and 2015 the concentration doubled. Source
  • No drunk or stoned droning: New Jersey passes ban

    Tech & Science CTV News
    New Jersey has added drunk droning to the statute books, outlawing the flying of unmanned aircraft after one too many drinks. The law makes it an offense to operate a drone under the influence of intoxicating liquor, narcotic, hallucinogenic or habit-producing drug or with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 per cent or more. Source
  • Environmental impact of N.S. turbines must be researched: executive director

    Tech & Science CTV News
    HALIFAX - Nova Scotia's bid to become a world leader in tidal energy received a boost today when Energy Minister Geoff MacLellan announced a new competition for research funding. MacLellan says $150,000 is being offered to support five research projects that will involve the use of Dalhousie University's Aquatron -- one of Canada's largest aquatic research facilities. Source
  • World's largest sea turtle could come off 'endangered' list

    Tech & Science CTV News
    Federal ocean managers say it might be time to move the East Coast population of the world's largest turtle from the U.S.'s list of endangered animals. An arm of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has received a petition from a fishing group asking that the Northwest Atlantic Ocean's leatherback sea turtles be listed as "threatened," but not endangered, under the Endangered Species Act. Source
  • No increase in earthquakes during full or new moons, study suggests

    Tech & Science CBC News
    The moon may be the cause of some things that happen on Earth, but earthquakes aren't one of them, a new study suggests. There's been an ongoing debate as to whether or not more earthquakes occur when the moon's tidal forces — its pull — is strongest. Source
  • BlackBerry's 'Jarvis' scans connected, autonomous cars for software vulnerabilities

    Tech & Science CTV News
    At the Detroit motor show, BlackBerry CEO, John Chen, unveiled the firm's new cybersecurity software, Jarvis, designed to analyze the many software systems used in connected and autonomous cars to identify potential security vulnerabilities. Jarvis aims to analyze all of the complex IT systems onboard connected and autonomous vehicles with speed and reliability. Source
  • Welcome to the neighbourhood. Have you read the terms of service?

    Tech & Science CBC News
    The L-shaped parcel of land on Toronto's eastern waterfront known as Quayside isn't much to look at. There's a sprawling parking lot for dry-docked boats opposite aging post-industrial space, where Parliament Street becomes Queens Quay. To its south is one of the saddest stretches of the Martin Goodman trail, an otherwise pleasant running and biking route that spans the city east to west. Source
  • Canada's deepest cave discovered by Calgary-based expedition

    Tech & Science CBC News
    It's definitely not for the claustrophobically inclined. A Calgary-based expedition has recently documented what's believed to be Canada deepest cave just north of Fernie, B.C. Kathleen Graham and Jeremy Bruns were part of a nine-person team of volunteer explorers who made the discovery around the new year. Source
  • Tips on how to protect yourself online

    Tech & Science CTV News
    The case of an Ontario man who allegedly earned hundreds of thousands of dollars by peddling massive troves of personal information obtained on the so-called dark web is a sobering reminder of the scale of online threats Canadians face every day. Source
  • B.C. man charged in alleged 'spambot' attack on video streaming platform

    Tech & Science CTV News
    COQUITLAM, B.C. -- A British Columbia man has been charged with mischief after a U.S.-based social media platform was allegedly flooded with thousands of spam messages, effectively shutting down many of its channels. Brandan Lukus Apple of Coquitlam was charged Dec. Source