According to a report by TechCrunch, MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory has devised a system that allows you to see bodies through walls. Called RF Pose, the system uses radio waves (!) to sense your position and then recreates it as a simple, multi-colored stick figure.

Here's how it works (and what the CSAIL team intends to do with the technology) according to 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.

TechCrunch's John Biggs describes the creation of RF Pose in even further detail:

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. They then overlaid stick figures on the movement and trained the network to do the same automatically. Because RF signals are ubiquitous, it was easier to use than other sensing technologies.

Biggs also notes that the team never actually trained the system to see through walls, but instead to "[generalized] its knowledge to be able to handle through-wall movement."

As stated in the team's press release, this technology would be excellent for monitoring patients and the elderly in a non-invasive way (i.e. without any security cameras or other equipment), allowing them to live more independently. Additionally, the researchers explained that in these real-world applications, RF Pose wouldn't record all the time, but would instead be programmed to begin monitoring only when it notices a specific set of bodily movements. That way, users could maintain their privacy but still get assistance when they need it.

This isn't the first time that individuals in MIT's CSAIL program have attempted to recreate Superman's X-ray abilities in a relatively accessible way. All the way back in 2013, Professor Dina Katabi and graduate student Fadel Adib developed a system for spotting people through walls using a low-power Wi-Fi signal. The idea was to eventually create a portable, user-friendly device that everyone could utilize — especially for purposes like disaster recovery and personal safety. However, it seems that news about the device, called Wi-Vi, has petered out quite a bit since it first broke.

There's no word yet on when or if RF Pose will be available for medical and commercial use.


What do you think of RF pose? Will you ever give up on your childhood desire for X-ray specs? Share in the comments below.