Real X-Ray Vision? MIT Invention Will Help Soldiers See Through Walls.   

The Citizen's Guide to the Future
Oct. 18 2011 12:25 PM

Real X-Ray Vision? MIT Invention Will Help Soldiers See Through Walls.

X-ray glasses it is not. But a new project from MIT is an important step toward “seeing” through walls. The as-yet-nameless device allows radar to penetrate concrete walls up to 8 inches, according to a demonstration. Who will use such a thing? The military, of course. “Our objective is to aid the urban warfighter to assist his situational awareness,” says Gregory Charvat, a technical staff member at MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory.

You don’t exactly get a clear picture from the system. Instead, the display looks something like a heat map. MIT News explains:

The system digitizes the signals it receives into video. Currently, humans show up as “blobs” that move about the screen in a bird’s-eye-view perspective, as if the viewer were standing on the wall and looking down at the scene behind. The researchers are currently working on algorithms that will automatically convert a blob into a clean symbol to make the system more end-user friendly. “To understand the blobs requires a lot of extra training,” Charvat says.
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Watch a demonstration below.

Though it is clearly still in the early stages, such a tool could be an enormous boon to members of the military when trying to find suspects or locate missing people. But technology often makes travels from from the battle field to domestic law enforcement, where policy matters get trickier. In 2001, the Supreme Court ruled in Kyllo v United States that using a thermal sensor to examine a suspect’s home constituted a search and would therefore require a warrant. Would “seeing” through walls be held to the same standard?

Read more at MIT News.

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

Torie Bosch is the editor of Future Tense, a project of Slate, the New America Foundation, and Arizona State that looks at the implications of new technologies. 

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