X-ray vision has been a pop culture icon for decades. Whether used by a superhero, a government agency, or just a robot cheating at poker, the trope has inspired a great many people to look into its real world applications. Now, finally, after decades of being a constant in the media, X-ray vision becomes real at MIT via Wi-Fi.
X-ray vision – from fiction to fact
A group of researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, led by Professor Dina Katabi, has finally achieved the superpower generally associated with Superman.
The technology puts to use variations in Wi-Fi signals in order to establish the way a person is moving behind a solid surface, like a wall.
Fadel Adib, a researcher working on the project, says that the best way to explain the technology is that it’s like a camera, except it’s not. It’s more like a sensor that can track people and that allows you to control devices by pointing at them.
At first, the researchers were interested to see if they can use wireless signals to find out what is going on in restricted spaces, like behind a couch. After being able to devise the technology for that, they moved on to find out if they could track someone on the other side of a wall. And the answer was ‘yes’.
The device works by sending Wi-Fi signals towards the wall, and then detecting what comes back. It’s basically like a sonar, or echolocation, only using Wi-Fi.
It then displays the movements on a screen, and it can also be used to detect breathing and heart rates, as well as to identify a person by their skeleton.
Modern practical uses
The team is now working to develop an app in order to better put the technology to use. They intend to make it viable for both law enforcement and health care.
Law enforcement applications would be to allow the police to better assess a hostage situation by locating the perpetrators and the victims behind a wall.
Meanwhile, the healthcare applications are more varied, as it would allow for use in both elder care and child care. It will even be programmable to alert the caretaker via text if the person supervised were to fall or get injured.
The researchers are going to start a company named ‘Emerald’ next year, and market the technology, along with a smartphone app, for $250-$300.
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