Household Radar Can See Through Walls and Knows How You’re Feeling

Modern wireless tech isn’t just for communications. It can also sense a person’s breathing and heart rate, even gauge emotions

10 min read
Images of human figures obtained using radio wave.
Hidden Figures: These images of human figures were obtained using radio waves. Each column contains two images of the same person.
Image: Fadel Adib

When I was a boy, I secretly hoped I would discover latent within me some amazing superpower—say, X-ray vision or the ability to read people’s minds. Lots of kids have such dreams. But even my fertile young brain couldn’t imagine that one day I would help transform such superpowers into reality. Nor could I conceive of the possibility that I would demonstrate these abilities to the president of the United States. And yet two decades later, that’s exactly what happened.

There was, of course, no magic or science fiction involved, just new algorithms and clever engineering, using wireless technology that senses the reflections of radio waves emanating from a nearby transmitter. The approach my MIT colleagues and I are pursuing relies on inexpensive equipment that is easy to install—no more difficult than setting up a Wi-Fi router.

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Print an Arduino-Powered Color Mechanical Television

Anyone with a 3D printer can make a new twist on the oldest type of TV

5 min read
A disk with a spiral of holes is mounted on a motor. Buttons and switches form a control panel below it.

Early 2020s 3D printing meets late 1920s mechanical television.

James Provost

Before flat screens, before even cathode-ray tubes, people watched television programs at home thanks to the Nipkow disk. Ninety years ago in places like England and Germany, broadcasters transmitted to commercially produced black-and-white electromechanical television sets, such as the Baird Televisor, that used these disks to produce moving images. This early programming established many of the formats we take for granted today, such as variety shows and outside broadcasts.

The size and weight of a Nipkow disk makes a display with more than a few dozen scan lines impracticable (in stark contrast to modern screens with thousands of lines). But when a mechanical TV is fed a moving image, the result is surprisingly watchable. And Nipkow displays are fascinating in their simplicity—no high voltages or complex matrices. So I wondered: What was the easiest way to build such a display that would produce a good quality image?

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World Builders Put Happy Face On Superintelligent AI

The Future of Life Institute’s contest counters today’s dystopian doomscapes

4 min read
A cityscape ensconced in an iridescent dome of light and shapes.
Hiroshi Watanabe/Getty Images

One of the biggest challenges in a world-building competition that asked teams to imagine a positive future with superintelligent AI: Make it plausible.

The Future of Life Institute, a nonprofit that focuses on existential threats to humanity, organized the contest and is offering a hefty prize purse of up to US $140,000, to be divided among multiple winners. Last week FLI announced the 20 finalists from 144 entries, and the group will declare the winners on 15 June.

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Modern System Level Design for Aerospace & Defense

Join this webinar series to learn the most important aspects of modern system-level design for RF and microwave applications in aerospace and defense

1 min read
Keysight
Keysight

More than ever, aerospace and defense companies must lower costs, accelerate their R&D, and reduce risk, all while simultaneously maintaining a high level of mission readiness. Register for this free webinar now!

Keysight is addressing these design challenges for RF and microwave applications, particularly for aerospace and defense applications.

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