While you can only dream of having Superman’s strength, super-speed, enhanced hearing, powers of flight, and nigh-invulnerability, his X-ray vision may soon be within your reach. Yes, you heard that right! Scientists at MIT’s artificial laboratory have successfully devised a mechanism that lets you see through walls. Here is more about it.
Growing up, we’ve all been fascinated by the superpowers of Krypton’s Kal-El AKA Superman. We’ve all wanted to fly like superman, have his strength, hearing powers, and ability to see through walls. The latter might soon become a reality. However, you need to remember that Superman is not human so his vision is different from that of us mere mortals.
For us humans to see an object, light has to go from that object to the eye. The light from that object can be either reflected light or the object can emit its own light. Either way, the direction of the light is from the object to the eye. The eye is the only receiver of the light and there isn’t any type of ‘vision ray’ that shoots from the eye. Why am I pointing this out? Because it’s an idea some people actually have about light. If you’re one of them, then ask yourself the following question:
“You are in an absolutely dark room (with zero light sources) for some extended period of time. what do you see after a while?”
The answer is black and nothing but black. Black is the color our brains associate with the lack of light. Some people may say that you will see some stuff after your eyes adjust. Perhaps, their answer is based on their previous experiences (you rarely get an absolutely dark room) but also on the idea that the eyes do the seeing and can adjust to new situations. While we can make X-ray images, we are far off from having X-ray vision. We might never get that, at least not as an inherent ability. However, technology may soon make it possible for us to see through walls as scientists at MIT’s artificial laboratory have successfully devised a mechanism that lets you see through walls. Let’s find out more about it.
The New Technology That Gives Humans X-Ray Vision
Computer science and artificial intelligence (AI) laboratory has created a system that can see your body through walls. The technology recreates your pose when you walk, sit, or simply stand still. The technology/mechanism that developed by scientists at MIT’s artificial intelligence lab uses radio frequency (RF) waves to sense where you are and then recreates your body as a simple stick figure. Following is an excerpt from the release:
“The researchers use a neural network to analyze radio signals that bounce off people’s bodies, and can then create a dynamic stick figure that walks, stops, sits and moves its limbs as the person performs those actions.
The team says that the system could be used to monitor diseases like Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis (MS), providing a better understanding of disease progression and allowing doctors to adjust medications accordingly. It could also help elderly people live more independently, while providing the added security of monitoring for falls, injuries and changes in activity patterns.”
The technology is seen as less intrusive way to monitor people for health and safety purposes. For example, if an elderly person or a sick person has a risk of falling, you may want to make sure they don’t by using this technology for their surveillance. The team is primarily interested in using the system for healthcare, allowing for passive monitoring of a subject inside a room without cameras or other intrusions.
The team believes that this system can be used to monitor people suffering from Parkinson’s disease or multiple sclerosis (MS). This will help doctors to better understand the progression of the disease so they prescribe appropriate medications. Additionally, the technology will the elderly to live without stress as they know they are being monitored.
The Testing Process
The researchers trained the neural network by showing a machine a video of a person walking next to the RF interference they made as they moved. Because RF signals are ubiquitous, it was easier to use than other sensing technologies. Interestingly, the scientists never trained the system to see through walls but it was able to‘generalize its knowledge to be able to handle through wall-movement.’
The researchers wrote that that data of the subject has been collected after consent was given by them. Additionally, the data has been encrypted to ensure the subject’s privacy. For applications in the real world, the team has plan to integrate a consent mechanism, where a person who has installed the device will activate it for monitoring by doing a specific set of movements.
A challenge that the scientists had to address was that data labeled by hand was used to train most neural networks. For example, training a neural network to spot cats requires people to look at a big dataset of images and label each one as either ‘cat’ or ‘not cat.’ On the other hand, humans can easily label radio signals.
To overcome the challenge, the scientist gathered examples using both a camera and their wireless device. They collected thousands of images of people walking, talking, sitting, opening doors and doing all sorts of activities. These images were then used to extract the stick figures, which were shown to the neural network along with the corresponding radio signal. This enabled the system to learn the association between the radio signal and the stick figures of people in the scene.
If you want to find out about other technological advancements in the area of ‘X-ray vision’, then get in touch with us today!
by Bobby J Davidson
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