Cambridge – A new developed software can identify human silhouettes through walls and track their movements.

The technology that appears to work as an X-ray visor, was designed by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) who successfully used variations in radio signals to recognize the figures of humans. A similar technology was previously developed in Scotland but it works with laser rays.

According to William J. Kole from the Associated Press, researchers explained the software could be used to help health care providers and families to keep an eye on elderly and toddlers and they mentioned it could work as a new strategic tool for law enforcement and the military.

Photo: MIT.
Photo: MIT.

Fadel Adib, a researcher on the MIT who worked in the development of the software said it was just like a camera but it wasn’t a camera, in other words it is a sensor than can monitor people and allows users to control devices just by pointing at them.

The sensor was developed since 2012 when the team wanted to investigate if wireless signals could be used to see what was happening in obstructed places such as couches, or behind walls, said Dina Katabi, the lead researcher who directs the MIT Wireless Center.

Katabi said that after they started asking more advanced question they were able to develop a device that displays a signal on a screen where the movements of people can be tracked in real time.

It’s amazing that the wireless signals that track the movements of people are also able to measure the individual’s breathing and heart rate and then it tries to identify the person based on the skeleton’s shape, said Zach Kabelac, another researcher.

“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 explained.

The team will continue to develop the device in order to make it smaller and cheaper, it would have an estimated cost of about $250 to $300 and it will work with an smartphone app designed to be user friendly and to allow customers to use the device at home.

“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.”

Laser camera that can see moving objects around corners


Findings published in the Nature Photonics Journal explain how moving objects around corners can be detected by a special camera powered with lasers. The research conducted by scientists from Heriot-Watt University and the University of Edinburgh stated the camera features could be useful in security surveillance and for detecting cars to prevent collisions.

New developed laser camera can track moving objects located behind corners in just a few seconds. The key of the camera stands in its capability to measure the distance of  an object based on the amount of time it takes laser light to reach it and then get back to the detector.

The system is conformed by a powerful laser which is remarkably fast and can fire 67 million pulses per second, each pulse last just 10 femtoseconds, the equivalent of one-millionth of one-billionth of a second. Both technologies, the software and the camera, seem to be the start of a future where X ray vision would be part of our day-by-day.