Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have developed a device that can directly image a person through solid walls, in real time. The device, called RF-Capture, transmits regular wi-fi signals into the area being imaged: in the case of their demonstration device, through a wall. When the signals are reflected back by a human body, they are picked up by the device’s receiver, and then they are put through an imaging processor to produce an on-screen image of the individual.

The device can currently distinguish between 15 people simultaneously, through their unique signature image. While the image looks like a crude thermograph, the device can determine hand movements and body posture by tracking individual body parts. It can also determine the heart and respiratory rate of the individual, an ability that could prove useful to the health care industry. The device is already being integrated into a commercial project for the elderly that is designed to detect and prevent falls.

The MIT team also sees potential applications for law enforcement for RF-Capture: current infrared imaging can help law enforcement and search and rescue personnel see people under darkened conditions, but IR is unable to see directly through solid objects, including glass. RF-Capture, on the other hand, could provide police with better situational awareness before entering a potentially dangerous room, and S&R personnel could spot victims hidden under rubble. 

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