MIT's Microwave Camera Sees Through Walls

MIT's Microwave Camera project can see through walls.


(MIT's microwave camera sees through walls)

Visible light has a wavelength between 390nm and 700nm, while our camera sees between 2.5cm and 4cm (much larger). While classical radar-imaging devices can perform these tasks, they do so with highly complex systems which are out of the reach of the consumer. We introduce a radar imaging architecture which makes imaging at these long wavelengths more accessible, while enabling all of the following:
  • higher resolution imaging
  • all of the electronics constrained to a small 10 x 10 space
  • Fewer detectors necessary
  • Better detection of specular (mirror-like) surfaces
  • Multi-spectral imaging
  • Time-resolved imaging (capturing Microwaves in flight)

The aim of our work is not just to detect objects, but also to form images in 3D. There are many advantages to being able to see how many limbs a person has and how tall they are; not just in what general area they are located. In order to image at such large wavelengths, sensors must cover a very large aperture at a high enough density to sufficiently sample the reflected waves (and prevent aliasing). Classical radar setups utilize hundreds of thousands of sensors to cover a large aperture at an appropriate density.

The future of commercial systems cannot rely on such large setups because they are difficult to produce and handle. Instead of spreading our electronics across the entire aperture, we focus all of our electronics to a 10 x 10 space, and use a large passive reflector to focus the reflected energy to this small area. Our setup enables higher resolution radar imaging by covering a large aperture with a passive-element, and constraining all of the electronics to a small focal plane. This architecture is useful for situations where many electronics are focused to a small area (such as a chip), since all that is necessary to increase the resolution of the device is to introduce a passive lens.

The microwave camera can image at wavelengths which easily penetrate drywall and plywood.

EE 'Doc' Smith imagined a similar idea more than eighty years ago in his 1934 novel Triplanetary:

The silent voice ceased, the watch upon Clio's wrist again became an unobtrusive timepiece, and Costigan, in his solitary cell far below her tower room, turned his peculiarly goggled eyes toward other scenes. In his pockets his hands manipulated tiny controls, and through the lenses of those goggles Costigan's keen and highly-trained eyes studied every concealed detail of mechanism of the great globe, the while he planned what must be done. Finally, he took off the goggles and spoke in a low voice to Bradley, confined in another windowless room across the hall.

"I think I've got dope enough, Captain. I've found out where he put our armor and guns, and I've located all the main leads, controls, and generators. There are no ether-walls around us here, but every door is shielded, and there are guards outside our doors--one to each of us..."

Costigan picked up the projector, again donned his spy-ray goggles, and the two hurried on.
(Read more about the spy ray goggles)

Take a look at four more real-life technologies to see through walls.

Via MIT.

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