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The Computing Science and Artificial Intelligence division in MIT

See-through walls possible with wireless signal tracking

The Computing Science and Artificial Intelligence division in MIT has developed a system that enables tracking movements through walls by simply using wireless signals.

The system, named ‘RF-Capture’ is able to contrast between as much as 15 people through the wall while able to track their movements with an accuracy of 90%. Despite having just been developed, the system may have several useful real-world applications in the future.

Real-world applications may be:

  • Virtual reality gaming
  • Tracking body movement in movie production
  • Tracking sudden movements in cases of emergency

The RF-Capture is composed of 20 antennas installed in an array that transmit wireless signals and in doing so are able to produce reflections between body parts that are then analyzed and translated into movement. In fact, the power of the wireless signal required to operate the device require only a thousandth (1/1000) of the actual power used in wireless internet. Even the frequencies at which the device operates are lower than those used in applications like X-rays, allowing even easier penetration through walls.

When considering the production costs of such a device, the similarity to current wireless systems also makes the components of this device easily producible at extremely low costs.

The algorithm used with the RF-Capture device is known as a ‘coarse-to-fie algorithm’ that in essence analyzes the space around it and traces reflections into body parts, creating the figure of a person in the other room piece by piece.

In the real world, RF-Capture can most closely be compared to Microsoft’s Kinect and its ability to fully track the human body, also termed ‘skeletal tracking’. The difference is that while Kinect relies on the object being in the same room, RF-Capture has the potential to expand to different rooms and even floors.

Despite limits to the current version of the device, MIT is hopeful that this is just the beginning of understanding how such a device works and should interact in the future. Researchers hope that by further understanding these principles of wireless signal tracking, current limitations to the RF-Capture device should, in time, decrease.


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