Researchers teach Wi-Fi to “see,” identify gestures

Changing the channel with a wave from the kitchen in the WiSee test apartment.
University of Washington

Flipping off your television may gain a whole new meaning thanks to a technology being developed by a team of researchers at the University of Washington. The team, led by Assistant Professor of Computer Science and Engineering Shyam Gollakota, developed a system dubbed WiSee, which uses radio waves from Wi-Fi to sense human body movements and detect command gestures from anywhere within a home or office. The results of the WiSee team's research have been submitted to the ACM's 19th International Conference on Mobile Computing and Networking (Mobicom '13).

Unlike other "machine vision" sensors such as Microsoft's Kinect, the system can sense gestures anywhere within a house or office environment using the Wi-Fi signals created by devices already in the environment. The user doesn't need to be within line of sight of the WiSee receiver—or even in the same room.

"The nice thing about Kinect is that it does motion detection without you having to carry anything around," said Shwetak Patel, an assistant professor of computer science and electrical engineering at UW and one of the lead researchers behind WiSee, in a phone interview with Ars. "We started out looking to see if there is a way to do what Kinect does in a larger area, and we started looking at RF."  The ubiquity of Wi-Fi and the  multiple antennas of newer MIMO Wi-Fi routers were a natural fit for the research.



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