Home » Feel Like Someone is Watching You? They May Be.

Feel Like Someone is Watching You? They May Be.

by Laura Brewer
12 minutes read

Wi-Fi, a word that once didn’t exist but now we can’t live without it. Wi-Fi is a major need in our world today as we rely on it to connect our computers or our cellphones because who wants to go over on their data? Wi-Fi fills every room we enter (for the most part) with radio waves where we are in a constant field of 2.4- and 5-gigahertz radio signals. As we move around our office, home, or an environment with Wi-Fi, we distort the fields by reflecting and retracting the waves.

Since the 1970’s, researchers have been working on this technology to make it more precise and MIT has advanced the technology to see through walls. A team at Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) of MIT has now been able to see a person on the other side of a wall and track their movements throughout. A professor of CSAIL stated that they can create an accurate dynamic skeleton of the person they are tracking, their posture and how they’re moving. This is the first time it has been done, as of 2013. 

The prior versions were able to view the individual as a blob-like outline, which isn’t necessarily 100% accurate. Now, they have trained a neural network to interpret the way radio Wi-Fi signals bounce off a human’s body and translate into a movement of 14 different key points on the body, including the head, elbows and knees. The evaluation of accuracy was done in several ways and the most interesting or scariest (depends on who you talk to) was how they could tell who the skeletal figure was by using the fact that each person walks with their own style. They first trained another neural network to recognize different styles of the people, then pass the pose estimation output to a style-recognizing network. The neural network guessed an 83% accuracy with people when they were behind the walls and when they were visible. Below is an example of their findings.

The team feels this device could be a major help with the police force. They could use this device to show who is behind walls before entering a situation or if the person has a weapon. Thebelieve this device could be used with interactive gaming, as well. However, their main focus is on healthcare for neurodegenerative diseases, such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and Multiple Sclerosis. Are you wondering how? This device would monitor a patient’s precise daily movements, providing doctors with an abundance of new information they wouldn’t know prior or during their normal 30-minute appointment.

Through the development process, the team has greatly considered the privacy aspect of the device because most will worry that the government will be able to spy on us through walls. They know most naturally worry about that and are deeply aware with developing a new technology like this, but the benefits should always be considered a priority.

Not to be confused, if humans were able to see the world using just Wi-Fi, there would be a whole new landscape of the world we live in. Homes, offices, stores, etc would have transparent doors and walls that illuminated by a bright light bulb – a Wi-Fi- transmitter. Besides the transparent world, it would be even harder to make sense of any image because they would be smeared with confusing reflections. But this doesn’t need to be a concern because seeing people through walls is not as easy as it looks.

Are you intrigued yet? Or are you among the scared ones?

This device seems to be a popular one to master. I mean, who wouldn’t want to join in and master this phenomenon? I am quite intrigued by this and would love to be among the guinea pigs of the device. In a sense, we tend to overlook the power of technology and AI (Artificial Intelligence) puts it into perspective in this day and age. Most people that work in an office use their cellphones and computers on a daily basis and this connection is done through Wi-Fi. Think about this device now. While we are sitting at our desks, playing on our cellphones, or getting up to walk around the office. This tracker can grab what you’re doing and begin to learn where you’re moving and how. In a sense, this seems creepy, but at the same time – think about how helpful this could be in other aspects of our world.  Technology is constantly evolving, and we must go with it.

If you’re interested in the MIT’s team and development, click here for the paper, slides and poster.


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