New WiFi-based technology allows for Superman-like X-ray vision… seriously

X Ray

Wouldn’t it be great to have X-ray vision? You could see through walls, and check out what other people are doing. No one would be able to sneak up on you. You could even see your neighbors… okay… nevermind maybe it would be a bad idea.

Researchers from MIT have developed a unique technology that uses Wi-Fi to generate an image of people moving, even through walls. It’s called the Wi-Vi system, and it was designed by Dina Katabi and Fadel Adib.

The system essentially sends out a wave of low-power Wi-Fi signals which are then used to track objects nearby, like those moving on the other side of walls. Of course, a Wi-Fi system on its own doesn’t just detect and show moving people, so the researchers did a little finagling. Naturally, Wi-Fi will penetrate walls and various objects, but will actually bounce off or reflect off people.

The MIT Wi-Vi system ignores any other reflects or signals and just focuses on those subjects that are moving. For example, any inanimate objects like furniture are eliminated from the signal feed. The system is designed to send out two different signals, one of which is the inverse of the other thus cancelling out excess activity. One of the system’s creators, Fadel Adib explained it like this:

“So, if the person moves behind the wall, all reflections from static objects are cancelled out, and the only thing registered by the device is the moving human.”

The Wi-Vi system can also detect movement, including gestures like arm waving or head rocking. These type of actions could even be used for other applications like controlling home automation systems and more. Of course, the obvious use of such would be to communicate with people in other rooms, or outside the building.

Dina Katabi, Professor of MIT’s Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, seems to think the system could be used for even more than that.

“If you are walking at night and you have the feeling that someone is following you, then you could use it to check if there is someone behind the fence or behind a corner.”

Other possible applications include portable systems for law enforcement, personal security, or search and rescue like fire fighters.

Of course, there are some more dastardly uses for this kind of technology. I’m sure there’s no need for me to outline them here.

What other applications do you see technology like this being used for?

[via CNET, image via Time Photos (Nick Veasey)]

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