New Technology Can Sense People’s Movements through Walls

Category : Technology/Innovations

Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. emit / iˈmɪt / (v) – to release

    The new device emits light.

  2. anticipate / ænˈtɪsəˌpeɪt / (v) – to expect the occurrence of something

    The technology can anticipate a person’s arrival.

  3. degenerative / dɪˈʤɛnərətɪv / (adj) – causing the body or its functions to gradually weaken

    Degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s disease can cause memory loss.

  4. keep tabs on (someone/something) / kiːp tæbs ɑːn / (idiom) – to observe someone or something closely

    As the project leader, she keeps tabs on the project’s progress.

  5. breach / ˈbriːtʃ / (v) – to violate or disobey something

    The company fired the employee who breached the employment contract.


Read the text below.

Researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have developed a software that can sense and track people’s actions through walls.

Called RF-Pose, the technology uses artificial intelligence (AI) that programs devices to identify and monitor a person’s movements like walking, waving, standing, or sitting down. RF-Pose also relies on a radio transmitter that emits waves, which are reflected by people’s bodies.

Specifically, the researchers conditioned RF-Pose to track people’s movements by gathering images of people in motion. Then, the device learned to produce stick figures every time it senses radio signals from a person. While the technology cannot really determine what is happening behind walls, it learned to anticipate a person’s movements using data from the images and radio waves.

The researchers believe that RF-Pose can greatly contribute to health care as it can be used in monitoring degenerative illnesses like Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis. With the help of RF-Pose, doctors can keep tabs on patients’ status in terms of the progression of diseases. The technology can also help in keeping track of falls and injuries.

Currently, the researchers are planning to conduct a trial of RF-Pose with the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research. They are also hoping to commercialize the technology in the future.

Despite the technology’s potential, a research associate from the Carnegie Mellon University’s Robotics Institute raised that RF-Pose can breach privacy because it can monitor people without their consent. Because lead researcher Dina Katabi recognized this issue, her team is looking into developing a consent mechanism. This mechanism instructs a person to perform certain movements before enabling RF-Pose to observe the environment.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

• Do you think RF-Pose is worth investing in? Why or why not?
• Aside from health care, what other fields do you think would benefit from RF-Pose (e.g. crime and security, search-and-rescue)? Discuss.

Discussion B

• In your opinion, is technology becoming a threat to one’s privacy? Explain.
• What tech-related activities do you think put one’s privacy at risk? Discuss.

Category : Technology/Innovations