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Video Radar Device Can See Through Walls

October 28, 2011
Written by: , Filed in: Diagnostic Imaging
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Like Superman, a group of Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers can see through walls.

Well, not exactly like Superman. The researchers don’t have X-ray vision. Instead, they have a portable radar device that can produce real-time video showing any movement on the other side of a solid concrete wall.

And, again unlike Superman, the device doesn’t capture clear pictures through the wall. Anything moving shows up on the video images as a yellow and red blob.

Still, it’s impressive—more so because you can be up to 60 feet from the wall. The researchers work for MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory, a federally funded research and development center in Lexington, Massachusetts, that works on national security technology. They think soldiers could use their radar system in urban combat situations, where you not only want to know what’s behind a wall but you also don’t want to be too close to that wall.

“You don’t want to have to stand right next to a potentially dangerous building,” said Gregory Charvat, PhD, leader of the research project. Dr. Charvat was quoted in an MIT news release.

When microwaves hit a four-inch-thick concrete wall, Dr. Charvat said, 99.4 percent of them don’t make it through. So his device has to capture the few microwaves that manage twice to penetrate that 99.4 percent filter—once on their way out from the transmitter, and once on their way back through the wall after bouncing off something on the other side.

The device is eight and a half feet long—not exactly something that a soldier would carry into combat, but it could be mounted on a vehicle. The researchers are working on converting the blobs into some sort of symbol to make their device more user-friendly. Dr. Charvat explained, “To understand the blobs requires a lot of extra training.”

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