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New Technique Turns Random Objects Into FM Radio Stations (thestack.com) 69

"A new technology is enabling everyday objects, such as posters and clothing, to be transformed into FM radio stations," reports The Stack, citing research from the University of Washington. An anonymous reader quotes their report. The team has introduced a technique called "backscattering" which uses ambient low-power radio signals to broadcast messages from random objects to smartphones in the local vicinity.The researchers hope that the development could help support various smart city applications, and picture a future where anything from a poster at a bus stop to a road sign can transmit audio updates and information to passers-by.

During testing, the researchers were able to use the backscattering technique to create a "singing poster" which could send out the music of an advertised band to smartphone users at a distance of up to 4 meters and to cars in an 18-meter [59-foot] radius. "What we want to do is enable smart cities and fabrics where everyday objects in outdoor environments -- whether it's posters or street signs or even the shirt you're wearing -- can 'talk' to you by sending information to your phone or car," explained lead faculty and UW assistant professor of computer science and engineering Shyam Gollakota.

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New Technique Turns Random Objects Into FM Radio Stations

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  • Nothing new about Backscatter. Its how primary radars work.

  • by Nutria ( 679911 ) on Saturday March 04, 2017 @06:36PM (#53977365)

    even more pervasive advertising!!

    • by ColdWetDog ( 752185 ) on Saturday March 04, 2017 @06:42PM (#53977387) Homepage

      Not all that long ago if you mentioned that someone's shirt was singing to you the assumption would be that you were off your antipsychotic meds.

      In the near future, you will need antipsychotic medications to stay half way sane in what passes for the real world.

      This is not progress. This is even more dystopian than 1984.

      This is crazy.

      • You know what's really crazy though? Comments on websites that try to sell you something!

        By the way, did you hear about this new [insert your company widget name here], it's really amazing! Buy now for only [insert your widget price here]!

      • by Nutria ( 679911 )

        Obligatory Futurama reference:
        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vHSDb-oI808 [youtube.com]
        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XPGgTy5YJ-g [youtube.com]

      • In the near future, you will need antipsychotic medications to stay half way sane in what passes for the real world.

        "If you feel you are not properly sedated, call 348-844 immediately. Failure to do so may result in prosecution for criminal drug evasion."

        "For more enjoyment and greater efficiency, consumption has been standardized."

        "Take four red capsules. In 10 minutes take two more. Help is on the way."

        This is not progress. This is even more dystopian than 1984.

        This is crazy.

        "You are a true believer. Blessings of the state, blessings of the masses. Thou art a subject of the divine. Created in the image of man, by the masses, for the masses."

        "Let us be thankful we have an occupation t

      • So far scientists have found no link between every day foods and brain cancer.
        But have no fear, there working on it.

    • I hope there will be a adblock against that
    • by ColaMan ( 37550 )

      Leela: Didn't you have ads in the 21st century?"

      Fry: Well sure, but not in our dreams. Only on TV and radio, and in magazines, and movies, and at ball games... and on buses and milk cartons and t-shirts, and bananas and written on the sky. But not in dreams, no siree.

      http://www.imdb.com/title/tt05... [imdb.com]

  • "[...] everyday objects in outdoor environments -- whether it's posters or street signs or even the shirt you're wearing -- can 'talk' to you [...]"

    Sure. If I can have a backchannel directly into Gollakota's ears through which the shirt I am wearing automatically sends a hearty "Go fuck yourself!" whenever one of these 'smart' objects tries to annoy me.

  • Dear Deity.. NO ! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    "What we want to do is enable smart cities and fabrics where everyday objects in outdoor environments -- whether it's posters or street signs or even the shirt you're wearing -- can 'talk' to you by sending information to your phone or car,"

    Wow, it can broadcast a massive 60 ft, unless you're crawling in traffic that'll be less than 2 seconds. You won't get anything meaningful to your audience in that time, you'll just piss them off with the interference.
    This is yet another solution looking for a problem to

  • No, thank you (Score:4, Interesting)

    by 93 Escort Wagon ( 326346 ) on Saturday March 04, 2017 @06:46PM (#53977407)

    While it's possible this technique might have less nefarious uses, the fact that all the cited potential uses involve advertising makes me wonder if this is a play by the researcher to get Google to poach him.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      I hope somebody poaches him.

      Like an egg.

    • if this is a play by the researcher to get Google to poach him.

      It's called marketing. Gotta make it sound sexy to someone as an application. I remember this in my thesis lab when we had an open day. Our advisor asked us to remove all the NIR lasers from the benches and replace them with blue lasers we salvaged from the PS3 "Other OS" disaster.

      When I asked why the blue ones he said "Invisible lasers aren't interesting. Lasers which make a dot somewhere aren't sexy. The 405nm lasers scatter so you can see the beam so kids are more likely to be interested in what we are d

  • Good luck targeting all the US phones which for the most part, have FM disabled. Still, I hate the core idea of this. Yeah, it's coming, but the concept is still annoying. I've already seen Bladerunner.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Yucko. This is sorta like being constantly accosted by street beggers. No peace. Really, just because advertisers want desperately to talk, why would anyone listen? Have they learned nothing from Netflix or Amazon? Or the slow and painful demise of broadcast TV? Shudder.... Just because we can doesn't mean we should.

    • by fisted ( 2295862 ) on Saturday March 04, 2017 @10:03PM (#53978127)

      Are you somehow able to sense and decode FM radio signals using your brain? Because if not, I think there's an obvious solution...

      • Indeed. While I'm no fan of pervasive advertising, I'd rather have random objects in my environment broadcasting low-power FM transmissions on known channels (which I am then free to avoid) than, say, broadcasting audio, which is a hell of a lot more intrusive. Or those fucking animated billboards which have begun to pollute our roads.

        This is an opt-in channel. Don't opt in, and you won't even notice it's there.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    In the not too distant future: "My phone got hacked by a Justin Beiber poster, and now I have 600 russian credit cards"

  • by thinkwaitfast ( 4150389 ) on Saturday March 04, 2017 @07:37PM (#53977585)
    You had have braces though and it only picked up AM.
    • You had have braces though and it only picked up AM.

      This is Jesus, Kent.

    • What you are referring to is demodulation of AM signals in much the same way a crystal receiver operates. That requires a fairly strong signal and a nonlinear device, i.c. a diode formed by two different metals in your brace, a germanium diode (crystal set) or iron/rust junctions in barb wire, which also exhibits this phenomenon.

      The article is about a modulation of a pre-existing radio wave, similar to a spy device the Russians used during the Cold war [wikipedia.org]. A difference is that the Russians transmitted a dedic

  • They've found a site that's crappier than The Verge and Wired!

  • I would think this would have much better uses than advertising. PSA's for example;
    "Mind the gap"
    "Walk on the left side"
    "Remember your reusable grocery bag"
    etc.

  • "... Then there was a slight whisper, a sudden spacious whisper of open ambient sound. Every hi-fi set in the world, every radio, every television, every cassette recorder, every woofer, every tweeter, every mid-range driver in the world quietly turned itself on. Every tin can, every dustbin, every window, every car, every wineglass, every sheet of rusty metal became activated as an acoustically perfect sounding board. Before the Earth passed away it was going to be treated to the very ultimate in sound rep

  • All this is going to be used for when it's all over is to turn all of us into individual, walking RFID chips. Pair it with AI to average out signals, and it'll be easy.
  • Not random objects (Score:4, Insightful)

    by religionofpeas ( 4511805 ) on Sunday March 05, 2017 @05:04AM (#53979031)

    The "singing poster" only works because there's a large copper foil antenna stuck behind it. So, instead of saying that random objects can be turned into FM stations, it would be more accurate to say that you can use suitably big objects to hide a huge ass antenna.

  • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 ) on Sunday March 05, 2017 @10:54AM (#53979793)

    It seems unlikely that this is legal. It would interfere with regular FM radio stations.

  • Ummm to do any kind of broadcasting in the FM bands you need a license from the FCC.... You can RECEIVE all the FM bands you want without a license but transmit - you need a license....

    • You don't need an FCC license if the Maximum Effective Radiated Power (ERP) is less than 0.01 microwatts. Since you need to stand very close to the object, it may well fall into that range.

    • Ummm to do any kind of broadcasting in the FM bands you need a license from the FCC.... You can RECEIVE all the FM bands you want without a license but transmit - you need a license....

      FM is a modulation mode, not a band. There is plenty of spectrum where you can transmit an FM from an FM station without a license.

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