New MIT radar technology lets you see through walls

By on October 19, 2011, 2:30 PM

New radar technology created at MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory grants users the ability to see through walls. The tech is being developed with military applications in mind, although it could see action by emergency response teams and others in the future.

Human sight is possible because waves of visible light bounce off objects and return to our eyes’ retinas. Traditional radars work similarly in that they send out radio waves that bounce off targets and are again picked up by the radar’s receivers. But just as it’s virtually impossible for humans to see through walls since there isn’t enough light penetrating the obstacle, radars have faced the same set of difficulties, until now.

The new device from MIT contains two rows of antenna; eight receives on top and 13 transmitters below as well as some computing equipment, all mounted on a movable cart. When activated, the wall blocks out 99.4 percent of the waves, allowing only .6 percent to pass. When the waves hit the target, they must again go back through the wall and lose another 99.4 percent before reaching the radar’s receivers on the original side.

According to project leader Gregory Charvat, signal loss isn’t the biggest hurdle the technology faces. The main challenge has been creating a radar that is fast, offers good resolution and has adequate range.

“If you’re in a high-risk combat situation, you don’t want one image every 20 minutes, and you don’t want to have to stand right next to a potentially dangerous building,” Charvat says.

MIT’s radar has an effective range of up to 60 feet away from a wall and provides a real-time picture of movement behind the wall via a video feed at 10.8 frames per second. Due to processing algorithms, the radar can only detect moving objects such as humans or animals. Moving targets on the screen are seen as blobs, much like a heat map would show. The team is working to further refine the system to convert the blobs into a clear symbol to make the radar more user friendly.

User Comments: 10

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Guest said:

Interesting but not near as neat as quantum levitation! it doesn't seem very practical to lug a huge piece of equipment like that to a wall. I can imagine the enemy talking to one another "Whad is dat?" "Ids jus de Ameecans trying do see through de wal."

Win7Dev said:

I'd rather see a quantum levitation table or desk in my house before having the ability to see through walls. Thermal imaging already does an okay job of seeing through obstacles provided they are thin.

tehbanz tehbanz said:

get ready for a breakthrough in seeing through walls technology, an invention so cutting edge that you'll hardly believe you're actually seeing through solid concrete. This invention i'm unveiling today will change the way we live life forever, and it's called. . . . the window!

Miyasashi said:

I guess we'll see the American soldiers towing around microwave-ovens to see enemies whilst cooking their meals?

Guest said:

Did anyone else remember 'Aliens' after watching this?

Guest said:

MIT comes up with this for military based applications and promptly explains how it all works for anyone to copy. China says thanks.

stewi0001 stewi0001 said:

"the radar can only detect moving objects"

well that would not be good to use during an earthquake, at a robotic factory and etc...

Lionvibez said:

Guest said:

MIT comes up with this for military based applications and promptly explains how it all works for anyone to copy. China says thanks.

Like it would have stopped them from copying it anyways they already own half your country :P

Guest said:

i hope i can purchase 1 ....

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