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MIT Researchers Can Take Your Pulse, Right Through the Walls 125

Posted by timothy
from the proof-of-life dept.
An anonymous reader writes MIT researchers develop technology that can monitor people's breathing and heart rate through walls. 'Their latest report demonstrates that they can now detect gestures as subtle as the rise and fall of a person's chest. From that, they can determine a person's heart rate with 99 percent accuracy. The research could be used for health-tracking apps, baby monitors, and for the military and law enforcement.' The report describes how they extended their through-wall technology to up to five users and how they track vital signs.
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MIT Researchers Can Take Your Pulse, Right Through the Walls

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  • by mbone (558574) on Sunday June 15, 2014 @01:42AM (#47239267)

    Aluminum foil will nicely block the 5.46-7.25 GHz (4-5 cm) radio waves used for this radar (as would a typical screen door). I wonder who will be the first to market RF-opaque sheet-rock, which would technically easy to make.

  • Re:Airports (Score:5, Informative)

    by m00sh (2538182) on Sunday June 15, 2014 @03:06AM (#47239403)

    Depending on how well it can separate subjects, this could be quite useful in an airport for (non-descriminative) screening.

    You've got one guy walking through whose heartrate is abnormally high, there's a decent change he's up to something inappropriate (smuggling, terrorism). The other possibility is that he has a fear of flying, but secondary screening should hopefully be able to determine that.

    Even better, have an airport security person walk by him or just look him in the eye and smile, then see if his heart-rate goes up even more. Sudden jump in vitals... bingo!

    I'm pretty sure the smuggler who figures out how to keep his heart rate low can suddenly be super effective. Then, this will give the incentive to create methods to learn how to control your heart-rate and it will be soon mastered by many smugglers.

    However, a normal person who has a high heart rate for whatever reason (a text from an old girlfriend, a cryptic e-mail from the boss etc) will be endlessly harassed.

    The pros will get around it because they will encounter it everyday. The only people who will suffer is the ordinary people who will encounter it occasionally and have no way to know what to do and get fucked by the elaborate system setup for terrorists.

  • Utter bullshit (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 15, 2014 @04:02AM (#47239497)

    As a medic, I can tell you there is not a direct correlation between pulse and respiratory rate between different individuals. While pulse and respirations may generally be proportional in any one individual, there's no way they can accurately infer a pulse from knowing respiration rates, since what drives one heart to beat at 60 bpm, while he breaths at 12 rpm, might drive another to beat at 75 bpm, but respire at only 12. It all depends on the relative efficiencies of the cardiac muscle and lungs.

    If this weren't so, medical persons would not be obliged when taking a patient's vital signs to record both pulse and respirations, (besides also blood pressure, temperature, etc.) but we are. The claim of 99% accuracy is what marks this story as bullshit so clearly. By the by, pulse and respirations vary within a single individual pretty wildly, from one minute to the next. So yeah... bullshit.

    The disturbing part is the notion of walls and doors being about as transparent, light or dark, as your windows with the drapes pulled. Homes are increasingly becoming obsolete. Privacy is a vanishing thing. People say, "you gave up your privacy by living in society," but then again, what about those people who haven't chosen any such thing? People who've never owned a computer, and whose phones up to maybe 10 or 15 years ago had a big round thing on the front of them? People who still own cathode-ray tube television sets? People who've heard of e-mail but never sent one?

    On the other hand, the notion of being able to see through walls using RF has been around for a while, so this really sounds like a bit of a non-story, or if there is a story, it's that the resolution has gotten better.

    Maybe the real story is how someone wasted a bunch of grant money learning how better to peep and spy on people like little children. How sad. The money's wasted.

  • by acx2 (2798695) on Sunday June 15, 2014 @07:18AM (#47239795)
    Research in tracking heart rate and respiration using radio waves has been happening for decades. Technology has progressed to the point where modern devices can detect a heartbeat through 30 feet of rubble or 20 feet of solid concrete: http://www.dhs.gov/detecting-h... [dhs.gov] . Chapter 2 of Jonathan S Burnham's 2009 MIT master's thesis seems to have a nice historical overview: http://hdl.handle.net/1721.1/6... [handle.net] . There probably are novel things about the MIT technology mentioned in the original post (e.g. lower power RF or better separation of individuals), but there is nothing new about tracking heart rate and respiratory rate through walls.

Faith may be defined briefly as an illogical belief in the occurence of the improbable. - H. L. Mencken

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