New Device Uses Wifi To See People Behind Walls

Wireless signals can now give you the superpower of ‘seeing through walls’. Researchers from the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab (CSAIL) have invented a device called RF Capture that makes use of wireless signals to detect people standing behind walls and other obstacles. Find the research paper entitled “Capturing the Human Figure Through a Wallhere; it will be presented at the SIGGRAPH Asia conference in Kobe, Japan next month.

The device generates ‘silhouette fingerprints’ of the individuals behind the obstacle. It uses wireless reflections to detect the people. Photo credits: Fadel Adib/CSAIL
The device generates ‘silhouette fingerprints’ of the individuals standing behind the obstacle. It uses wireless reflections to detect the people. Photo credits: Fadel Adib/CSAIL

The technology the scientists of MIT have developed is an improved version of past systems such as those allowing firemen determine the presence of people in burning buildings.

RF Capture identifies the people as follows:-

It transmits wireless signals (radio waves) that can pass through physical objects. Once these hit a person behind the objects, the signals are reflected off to bounce back to the device which then does relevant calculations based on measurements like height, body shape, amongst others. Then, using a coarse-to-fine algorithm, it creates a “silhouette fingerprint” of the person.

The image created by the RF Capture is accurate enough: the device can make out an individual’s chest, head, arms, and feet; it can also make the difference between different individuals and postures.

During tests performed by the researchers, the RF Capture device could distinguish among 15 people through a wall.

The researchers are positive about the possible applications of their wireless technology.

“We are working to turn this technology into an in-home device that can [be called] 911 if it [is capable of detecting] that a family member has fallen unconscious,” MIT professor Dina Katabi said in a statement. “You could also imagine [the technology] being used to operate your TVs and lights, or to adjust your [temperature] by monitoring where you are in the house.”

It could also be used in the film industry for motion capture.

“Today actors have to wear markers on their bodies and move in a specific room full of cameras,” says PhD student Fadel Adib, the lead author of the new paper. “RF Capture would enable motion capture without body sensors and could track actors’ movements even if they are behind furniture or walls.”

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