MIT develops Kinect-like system to track people through walls

By on October 16, 2013, 7:15 AM

We all know how cool Microsoft's Kinect peripheral is. It has the ability to track the position of a person in a room without said person needing to hold a transmitter, and it can read hand gestures, understand voice commands, recognize facial expressions and even measure heart beats. However it only really works in the room it's placed in, as it relies on several cameras for its array of functions.

MIT's newly-developed human-tracking sensor doesn't quite have the function set or accuracy of the Kinect, but it does manage to do something the Kinect can't: track the position of people through walls. Rather than using cameras, MIT's device uses three radio antennas that are spaced around a meter apart, which then measure radio wave reflections from a person moving on the other side of a wall. Through triangulation, the position of the moving person can be shown on the system's monitor to within 10cm.

While the researchers at MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory eventually want to bring the technology to the market, there are some issues to overcome before a commercial product can be made. One such issue is how easy it is to interfere with the system. Currently only one person can be tracked using the device, and anyone else moving in the local area causes significant interference; however in a few software iterations the researchers are hoping to track multiple people as silhouettes, like the Kinect does.

The overall size of the unit is also not particularly practical, meaning it will need to be shrunk down before mass production. MIT believes the system has a lot of potential though, being able to track when and where people in retailers stop to look at displays, or when residents in an elderly care facility fall down or stop moving for extended periods.

With significant research and development still to be done to make the system ready for real-world use, it could still be many years before we'll see radio-tracking implemented in the wild. However the team at MIT will continue to work on the system, and one day we might find ourselves being tracked in a hidden and very clever way.

User Comments: 10

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tomkaten tomkaten said:

I can see this working just fine...

"Honey, stop doing the dishes, I'm picking my nose and my guy is doing fatalities." :P

2 people like this | Skidmarksdeluxe Skidmarksdeluxe said:

This message was kindly brought to you by the NSA network, their partners and friendly, helpful personnel.

To which of course of which they generously donate funding

MilwaukeeMike said:

As fun as it is to joke about the NSA, of all the things they don't care about, which room of your house you're standing in doesn't even make the list.

This however...

residents in an elderly care facility fall down or stop moving for extended periods.
could be very helpful. A friend of mine worked at a retirement community and it happened occasionally that someone would fall and be stuck until they were randomly checked on. Spending hours on the floor with a broken bone isn't all that unusual in a building full of elderly.

2 people like this | Guest said:

Looks like it wont be long before I have to upgrade my tin foil hat to a full body suit.

1 person liked this | VitalyT VitalyT said:

Comes with Predator Kit?

1 person liked this | JC713 JC713 said:

This takes creepy to a whole new level.


So... this is radar for large biological objects? How long until we need stealth solders as well as stealth jets?

Guest said:

Glad to to see that MIT is using Ubuntu; Ubuntu 13.10 is released tomorow (October 17, 2013). Linux FTW!

Emexrulsier said:

It's the start of the Umbrella corporation's computer security syytem...

WriteInVote said:

I have to dispute the person who said the NSA doesn't care what room you're in.

Former CIA head, David Patreus, let it slip the govt will spy on Americans thru electrical appliances. Search: CIA Head: We Will Spy On Americans Through Electrical Appliances

Chief technology officer of the CIA, Gus Hunt: ?We fundamentally try to collect everything and hang onto it forever.? He followed that statement up with this gem: ?It is really very nearly within our grasp to be able to compute on all human-generated information.? In other words, they want it all, and they nearly have the capacity to gather it all already.

Research "Trapwire."

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