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Wireless vision shows promise for medical, VR apps

Posted: 02 Nov 2015     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:MIT  Wi-Fi  wireless  RF  camera 

A team of researchers at MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab (CSAIL) has always considered the possibility that wireless signals such as Wi-Fi have the capability to see things that are invisible to the naked eye.

Since 2013, a CSAIL team has been developing technologies that use wireless signals to track human motion. The team has revealed that it can detect gestures and body movements as subtle as the rise and fall of a person's chest from the other side of a house, allowing a mother to monitor a baby's breathing or a firefighter to determine if there are survivors inside a burning building.

Next up? Seeing a person's silhouette and even distinguishing between individuals.

In a paper accepted to the SIGGRAPH Asia conference taking place next month, the team showcased a technology called RF Capture that picks up wireless reflections off the human body to see the silhouette of a human standing behind a wall.

RF Capture

By seeing silhouettes through a wall, CSAIL device could help with motion capture, fall prevention and even your heating bill.

By tracking the silhouette, the device can trace a person's hand as he writes in the air and even distinguish between 15 different people through a wall with nearly 90 per cent accuracy.

In other words, from the opposite side of a building, RF Capture can determine where you are, who you are, and even which hand you are moving.

From heating bills to Hollywood

Researchers said the technology could have major implications for everything from gaming and filmmaking to emergency response and eldercare.

Take, for example, motion capture in movie production: "Today actors have to wear markers on their bodies and move in a specific room full of cameras," said PhD student Fadel Adib, who is lead author on the paper. "RF Capture would enable motion capture without body sensors and could track actors' movements even if they are behind furniture or walls."

The device's motion-capturing technology makes it equally valuable for smart homes, according to MIT professor and paper co-author Dina Katabi.

"We're working to turn this technology into an in-home device that can call 911 if it detects that a family member has fallen unconscious," noted Katabi, director of the Wireless@MIT centre. "You could also imagine it being used to operate your lights and TVs, or to adjust your heating by monitoring where you are in the house."

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