MIT researchers use Wi-Fi to recognize people through walls

Researchers from MIT have developed a technology that uses wireless signals to see you through a wall. The technology identifies the person by studying its silhouette and it can even distinguish you from other people.

Researchers at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab have developed software that uses variations in Wi-Fi signals to recognize human silhouettes through walls. The researchers have built a device called RF-Capture for this purpose. RF-Capture works by transmitting wireless signals and then analyzing the reflections of those signals to piece together a human form, according to a study published this morning.

The research team from MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab have been researching the use of wireless signals to see what’s happening on the other side of a wall. In 2013, they showed off software that could use variations in wifi signal to detect the presence of human motion from the other side of a wall.

The current study, which is a result of their research for last two years has materialised into the invention of RF-Capture. The RF-Capture is sophisticated enough to determine subtle differences in body shapes, and, with 90 percent accuracy, distinguish between 15 different people through a wall. It can even determine a person’s breathing patterns and heart rate.

This is how RF-Capture works

The RF-Capture is placed in a room, and a person walks in a neighboring room on the other side of the wall. The device emits wireless signals, which travel through the wall, and reflect off different parts of the human body as it moves. As various part of the body are reflected in the wireless signal, the RF-Capture takes snapshots. Then, using an algorithm to identify body parts, it stitches the images together to create a silhouette of the moving figure. In some experiments, when the researchers focused the device on specific movement patterns they were able to trace a person’s handwriting as he wrote in the air, Gizmodo reports.

While there’s no real-world application for the RF-Capture yet, the MIT researchers say there are many possibilities. The technology can be used for monitoring old people who are living alone as well as ATMs and other high secure areas for intruders.

If this seems like an excellent way to spy on someone, you’re not wrong. But the researchers told Gizmodo that in addition to necessary regulation that would need to be implemented, they’re currently designing blockers that would only allow a person to be tracked by her own device.

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