MIT uses RF reflections to track people, bodily functions

WiZ, developed by the Wireless Center at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), takes a new approach to locating people as well as tracking bodily functions such as breathing without the need for carried devices or wearables. That is because WiZ uses radio-frequency reflections from people's bodies to provide centimeter-scale motion tracking.

Dina Katabi


Wireless Center researchers, working in MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Library (CSAIL), say their technology can track the movements of up to four distinct individuals. WiZ can also track concurrent gestures made by different individuals, detect 3D pointing gestures of multiple users and track breathing motion and output the breath count of multiple people, all with high accuracy, according to a paper issued by MIT researchers.

A news release from MIT suggests the group's research could be applied to health-tracking apps, such as those developed with Apple's (NASDAQ: AAPL) new HealthKit software suite, and might replace wearable sensor devices, such as FitBit's fitness bands. WiZ could be used for baby monitors as well as military and law enforcement applications.

"It has traditionally been very difficult to capture such minute motions that occur at the rate of mere millimeters per second," said MIT professor of electrical engineering and computer science Dina Katabi, who directs the Wireless Center and co-authored the paper on WiZ. "Being able to do so with a low-cost, accessible technology opens up the possibilities for people to be able to track their vital signs on their own."

The technology harkens back to earlier developments announced by MIT one year ago. At that time, MIT researchers announced "Wi-Vi," which is based on a concept similar to radar and sonar imaging but instead transmits a low-power Wi-Fi signal and uses its reflections to track moving humans, even if they are in closed rooms or behind a wall. 

MIT said Katabi's team is now working on higher-resolution capabilities that would enable detection of actual body silhouettes, gestures and even emotions such as fear or anger, which cause changes in heart beats and breathing.

For more:
- see this MIT release and this research paper

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