Low Cost X-ray Vision a Reality for Tactical Units In 2017

xray-vis3Currently under development at MIT, a device providing X-ray-like vision may soon find itself in tactical units’ toolkits alongside Ranger-R doppler radars and fiber optic cameras, providing another level of safety for point men and breachers in hostage and siege incidents.

A group of researchers led by Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor Dina Katabi has developed software and sensors that uses variations in radio signals to recognize human silhouettes through walls and track their movements. To be clear, no actual X-rays are used; instead the technology is based on WiFi radio radiation, which is harmless.

Once development is completed, law enforcement personnel equipped with this device will be able to accurately track the movement of persons inside a house, and identify whether they are suspects or hostages – provided that persons’ measurements are known in advance.

Researchers say the technology could be a new strategic tool for law enforcement and the military. It will also be able to help health care providers and families keep closer tabs on toddlers and the elderly

“Think of it just like cameras, except that it’s not a camera,” said Fadel Adib, a researcher on the MIT team developing the device.

“It’s a sensor that can monitor people and allow you to control devices just by pointing at them,” he said.

Work began in 2012 to determine how wireless signals (similar to ubiquitous WiFi) could be used to “see” what’s happening in another room, said Katabi, who directs the MIT Wireless Center.

“At first we were just interested … can you at all use wireless signals to detect what’s happening in occluded spaces, behind a wall, couch, something like that,” Katabi said.

“It turned out that we were able to detect that. And when we figured out we could detect that, we started asking more advanced questions: Could we use it to detect exactly how people are moving in a space if they are behind a wall?”

Unlike FLIR or thermal imaging, the sensor being developed can see through glass, and brick and concrete walls of a house.

The device displays the signal on a screen, which may be an ordinary iPad, where the person’s movements can be tracked in real time. It depicts the target as a red dot moving around the room, occupying a chair and speeding up or slowing down.

The wireless signals used to track a person’s motions also can measure the individual’s breathing and heart rate—and potentially identify the person based on the shape of his or her skeleton, said researcher Zach Kabelac.

In this Nov. 19, 2015, photo, Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers Fadel Adib, left, and Emad Farag sit in chairs as a screen displays how RF-Capture is tracking them through the wall behind them on the MIT campus in Cambridge, Mass. RF-Capture is a technology being developed at MIT that uses WiFi signals to see and sense through walls. (AP Photo/Scott Eisen)
In this Nov. 19, 2015, photo, Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers Fadel Adib, left, and Emad Farag sit in chairs as a screen displays how RF-Capture is tracking them through the wall behind them on the MIT campus in Cambridge, Mass.

“The person won’t be wearing anything on them, and the person it’s tracking doesn’t even need to know the device is there,” Kabelac said.

Katabi sees military and law enforcement applications – particularly in hostage situations.

“You don’t want to send the police inside without knowing where the people are standing or where the hostages are,” she said. “If there is someone with a gun, where they are standing?”

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p style=”text-align: justify;”>A company set up to market the technology, now dubbed Emerald, will spin out of the MIT lab next year, with a goal of marketing the device early in 2017, and it’s expected to sell for $250 to $300, Adib said. The team is working to make the device smaller and to develop an interface that will let users configure it through a smartphone app, Katabi added.

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