MIT uses Wi-Fi to look through walls

Researchers at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence lab are working on a technology, called RF Capture, which uses radio frequencies to see people standing on the other side of a wall with startling clarity.

The team behind RF Capture has been working with similar technology since 2013. They’ve used that to track subtle movements of human bodies, like breathing, from behind walls, but the new system is capable of seeing even finer detail.

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RF Capture, in fact, is so clear that it can identify individuals within certain limits, track small hand gestures, and even see silhouettes of people on the other side of a wall.

PhD student Fadel Adib is the lead author of a paper describing RF Capture that is due to be presented at the SIGGRAPH Asia computer graphics conference next month. He offered the example of easier motion capture for films and video games as one of many potential uses for the technology.

“Today actors have to wear markers on their bodies and move in a specific room full of cameras,” he said in MIT’s announcement. “RF Capture would enable motion capture without body sensors and could track actors’ movements even if they are behind furniture or walls.”

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What’s more, the team has already begun work on a product that uses RF Capture to help predict and prevent falls for elderly people. Called Emerald, the system is designed to identify the distinctive movement patterns associated with falling and analyze their gait to find out whether their risk of a fall is increasing.

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