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Input Devices Hardware Hacking Wireless Networking Build

Wi-Fi Signals Allow Gesture Recognition All Through the Home 122

Posted by Soulskill
from the physical-input-devices-are-passe dept.
vinces99 writes "Forget to turn off the lights before leaving the apartment? No problem. Just raise your hand, finger-swipe the air and your lights will power down. Want to change the song playing on your music system in the other room? Move your hand to the right and flip through the songs. University of Washington computer scientists have developed gesture-recognition technology that brings this a step closer to reality. They have shown it's possible to use Wi-Fi signals around us to detect specific movements without needing sensors on the human body or cameras. By using an adapted Wi-Fi router and a few wireless devices in the living room, users could control their electronics and household appliances from any room in the home with a simple gesture."
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Wi-Fi Signals Allow Gesture Recognition All Through the Home

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  • by wbr1 (2538558) on Tuesday June 04, 2013 @04:37PM (#43908153)
    The last think I want it the system to detect me fapping and turn the tv to CSPAN and turn all the lights on!
  • "Machine Learning" (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 04, 2013 @04:37PM (#43908157)
    They use "machine learning" to train the computer to recognize each gesture. You'll have to retrain the computer every time you change position of yourself or any object near you. It's a cute parlor trick, but nothing like what a real radar could do.
    • by Nimatek (1836530)
      That's not how machine learning works.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      They use "machine learning" to train the computer to recognize each gesture. You'll have to retrain the computer every time you change position of yourself or any object near you. It's a cute parlor trick, but nothing like what a real radar could do.

      Wow, seriously? UW has some of the top Machine Learning faculty now. If you really think the best they can do is diff a bunch of patterns, you are badly mistaken.

      Well, if your concept of learning lacks generalization, I suppose you won't really gain anything from me pointing out your error. You will just make the same mistake unless we teach you for every single example...

    • by Causemos (165477)

      You have a very dim view on technology. Not so long ago voice recognition was near impossible without training.

  • by EvilSS (557649) on Tuesday June 04, 2013 @04:38PM (#43908161)
    Wouldn't the DOJ just LOVE this if they could force manufacturers to give them remote access. With a warrant, of course (wink wink!) Is there nothing in a modern house that can't be re-purposed to spy on us anymore?
    • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Tuesday June 04, 2013 @04:42PM (#43908195) Journal

      Wouldn't the DOJ just LOVE this if they could force manufacturers to give them remote access. With a warrant, of course (wink wink!) Is there nothing in a modern house that can't be re-purposed to spy on us anymore?

      Why would they have to force them? If history is anything to go by, your ISP will bake the function voluntarily into their dreadful CPE shit so that they can sell the data for advertising purposes, at which point the feds can just ask them for it...

      • by EvilSS (557649)
        Good point. I think I'm just going to go find a nice cozy cave to live in. Wait, that hasn't worked out so well for other people lately either. Damn.
        • by maharvey (785540)
          No problem for the watchdogs. They'll figure out how to do this with cellular signals and keep and eye on the whole city. Though a cave might offer useful shielding... hmm...
        • Screw caves, just wear a tinfoil hat!
      • That was Linksys, not the ISPs.

        Assign blame where its due.

    • by hawguy (1600213) on Tuesday June 04, 2013 @05:11PM (#43908449)

      Wouldn't the DOJ just LOVE this if they could force manufacturers to give them remote access. With a warrant, of course (wink wink!) Is there nothing in a modern house that can't be re-purposed to spy on us anymore?

      The DOJ doesn't need access to the lights and appliances in your home to keep track of you when the power company's smart meter will give them nearly the same information. With detailed power usage, they can easily tell when you're at home, when you go to bed, when you wash your clothes, etc.

      • by Nullsmack (189619)

        oh not this bullshit again

        Hey I have a hot conspiracy idiocy for you. Barcodes are the mark of the devil! As soon as they get out of the research labs in a few years they will send all of us straight to hell sonny boy.

    • by anubi (640541) on Tuesday June 04, 2013 @05:17PM (#43908491) Journal
      Ummm... the government already has this technology. It does not need your WiFi. Any radio or TV station does fine as a signal source to illuminate the area with an RF field.

      I am sure you have noticed if you have ever used a rabbit ear TV antenna that your TV became quite sensitive to where people were in the room. Even changing your position on the bed was quite noticeable if you were trying to receive a weak signal.

      By using multiple antennas, triangulation, and signal processing to correlate the signal each antenna received, it is quite do-able to triangulate onto anything moving in the RF field, and determine each moving things position, velocity, direction, and acceleration.

      This is quite useful for "seeing" what's on the other side of opaque walls. Light does not make it through the wall, but RF does.

      Its a fascinating thing to see these things work. I have a hankering to build a 3D version of one being 3D glasses are becoming available that do not require me to lug around a huge display screen.

      Rudimentary ones can be built with little more than the business end of the 10.525 GHz microwave source commonly used for supermarket door sensors. [aliexpress.com]
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Any radio ...

        The wavelength for radio is kind of large, and while you standing right next to an antenna can have some near field effects, it would be quite difficult to resolve what someone is doing more than a couple wavelengths away.

        ...or TV station

        At least UHF has a more reasonable wavelength, but it would still seem impressive to tell what is going on from outside a house, instead of just that something changed in a particular room. The work discussed in the article here would at least be using shorter wavelengths, with much shor

        • The wavelength for radio is kind of large, and while you standing right next to an antenna can have some near field effects, it would be quite difficult to resolve what someone is doing more than a couple wavelengths away.

          Also- wouldn't the spook on the observing end need to know something about the placement of the antennas/rf-generating gizmos to make any sense of the spatial temperament of room he's spying on?

          • by anubi (640541)
            Both of you are quite right, as far as the lower frequencies being hard to resolve and knowing where the RF gizmos are.

            I would have a hard time resolving anything in the AM band, but having high powered TV or WIFI routers around illuminates the area with known stable frequencies of wavelengths I can more easily resolve the phase differences as the multipath environment changes.

            My intended application is a device to track whatever moves outside or inside my house, and make an intelligent decision whet
    • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

      Sounds like we will be putting tinfoil hats on our routers in future. There's a Soviet Russia joke in there somewhere.

    • I'm thinking of the plot point in The Dark Knight wherein Lucius Fox gives Wayne the ability to effectively become omnicient via cell phones and etc.
  • by TeknoHog (164938) on Tuesday June 04, 2013 @04:39PM (#43908169) Homepage Journal
    ...Leon wants his Theremin back.
    • No, no, these intrepid scientists have discovered a method of radio-frequency detection and ranging. They must rush to the patent office immediately to protect the intellectual property of R-FDAR.
  • Think of all the gestures that could trigger Marvin Gaye songs and soft lighting.

    But more disconcerting ins the fact that even if rolled out with the best of intentions, this will inevitably lead to parents, flatmates, and siblings using it to spy on each other in some way.

    • Re:I can't wait (Score:5, Interesting)

      by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Tuesday June 04, 2013 @04:46PM (#43908253) Journal

      Given that wifi punches through walls reasonably adequately, for most values of 'wall', you wouldn't really have to share a residence with somebody, it would likely work on at least the adjacent houses or apartments if sited correctly.

      A vehicle could presumably also scan a building for movement from outside. Possibly even get decent location accuracy with some directional antenna tricks...

      • by Anonymous Coward

        I would be surprised if surveillance vans didn't already have some kind of more precise device that doesn't interfere with a usable spectrum to detect movement. Heartbeat sensor anyone?

        • This is real life, not Call of Duty.

          How are you supposing a heartbeat sensor would work?

          • by PCM2 (4486)

            How are you supposing a heartbeat sensor would work?

            Microsoft says the Xbox One [theregister.co.uk] can monitor your heartbeat using just the camera.

          • by Pubstar (2525396)
            Like this?
            www.designnews.com/document.asp?doc_id=223320&dfpPParams=aid_223320&dfpLayout=article
      • by maharvey (785540)

        Just wait till Google upgrades their van and offers X-ray Street View! The pr0n industry won't like it when you can just get a free live Google feed from your hot neighbors' house. Though sadly, none of my neighbors are hot.

      • The Supreme Court already ruled government needed warrants to use IR detectors on houses. One presumes the inevitable case would result in the same thing.

  • Can you imagine? who needs a remote control? now, if only you could have a few WI-FI control robots to answer the door and throw away the garbage.. :)
  • Why not an app? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by hawguy (1600213) on Tuesday June 04, 2013 @04:50PM (#43908283)

    Few people have an app or web page to control their home appliances, but we're supposed to believe that we want gesture control?

    Home automation is nothing new and there are certainly people that *can* control their home lighting and appliances remotely, but few even bother because it's not that useful in practice.

    If I forget to turn off the lights when I leave the house, I'm probably not going to remember that the lights are on when I'm at the office and turn them off from there. I'd be better off with a smarter house that turns on the appropriate level of lighting when I walk in a room and turn off all the lights and appliances for me when I leave.

    Gesture based music control would probably be more handy than remote lighting control.

    • Some more interesting things:

      Turn off/down AC/Heat till calculated time it takes to reach desired temp before you arrive back home. Apps can help tie in gps tracking and calendar info for starters.

      Same thing for blinds and other window treatments.

      Start the kettle (coffee maker for those thus inclined) so that it ready at desired time.

      Overall we need more standard API's on devices and less attempts to make smart ones. Would rather upgrade software/hardware on a single controlling device than all my applian

    • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

      Remote appliance control is moderately popular in Japan, where major manufacturers like Panasonc, Toshiba and Sharp have been putting it in their products for a few years now. Actually way back in 2004 I remember seeing a Toto bath that could be commanded to fill remotely so it would be ready when you got home from work, and these days it is becoming a more common feature on air conditioning units.

      If I forget to turn off the lights when I leave the house, I'm probably not going to remember that the lights are on when I'm at the office and turn them off from there.

      Current systems usually give you a dashboard app that gives you can overview of all your devices, so if you che

  • The Force? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Jhon (241832) on Tuesday June 04, 2013 @04:51PM (#43908289) Homepage Journal

    So... maybe "The Force" or "magic" is just an accumulation of old wifi products?

    • by Tablizer (95088)

      So... maybe "The Force" or "magic" is just an accumulation of old wifi products?

      The Greys posing as Moses? the sneaky bug-eyed devils.

      "Behooollld, the sea parteth!" (Swooooosh!)

    • by neminem (561346)

      Orson Scott Card actually wrote a series like that, where everyone believed in magic, but it was actually a mind-reading computer in a satellite, that the civilization had long since forgotten about. Was a neat idea, even if the later books got increasingly, annoyingly mystical and lost sight of the "this is supposed to actually be sci-fi" (a problem later books in Card series often fight with...)

      • Orson Scott Card actually wrote a series like that, where everyone believed in magic, but it was actually a mind-reading computer in a satellite, that the civilization had long since forgotten about. Was a neat idea, even if the later books got increasingly, annoyingly mystical and lost sight of the "this is supposed to actually be sci-fi" (a problem later books in Card series often fight with...)

        I was given a Magic Wand remote control for Xmas. It's a standard IR learning remote in the shape of the stereotypical wizard's implement with accelerometers that allow it to distinguish about 11 different types of gestures.

        One of the nice things about Linux is that it's quite easy to wire just about any function you want into an IR sensor daemon. Or if you prefer, a Wii Remote, which does essentially the same thing, only via Bluetooth.

        Then again, jack in a Kinect and you can use a #2 pencil for the same tr

      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        spoiler alert There's also a pretty decent Anime with that as the theme called Scrapped Princess. /spoiler When I saw the reveal I applauded.

    • And here is one now:
      Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

  • There's something in the Wi-Fi. This whole world is swimming in Wi-Fi. We're living in a Wi-Fi soup. Suppose something got inside it... suppose there was something living in the Wi-Fi harvesting human minds! Imagine that.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 04, 2013 @04:54PM (#43908321)

    This feature will not be made available in Italy.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 04, 2013 @04:59PM (#43908355)

    A loud clatter of gunk music flooded through the Heart of Gold cabin as Zaphod searched the sub-etha radio wave bands for news of himself. The machine was rather difficult to operate. For years radios had been operated by means of pressing buttons and turning dials; then as the technology became more sophisticated the controls were made touch-sensitive--you merely had to brush the panels with your fingers; now all you had to do was wave your hand in the general direction of the components and hope. It saved a lot of muscular expenditure, of course, but meant that you had to sit infuriatingly still if you wanted to keep listening to the same program.

    Zaphod waved a hand and the channel switched again.

    • Douglas Adams, always before his time

      Sadly true, in the end. He nailed with that bit you've quoted though. Practically prior art for Kinect.

  • "I've written new software that can use the wifi signals bouncing around in your home to help you change channels on your TV, or possibly give surreptitious surveillance to any law enorcement agency that can get a bullshit warrant from a rubber stamp judge. We promise it will only be used to help you change the TV channel."

    Do programmers even filter this stuff through their conscience any more?

    .

    • by Anonymous Coward

      You don't already set your wi-fi routers to active countersurveillance doppler scrambling mode? All mine continuously inject few-Hz distortions into the transmissions that simulate a large crowd constantly milling about the house; distinguishing actual individuals is practically impossible. Heater wires in the walls to scramble thermal signatures help, too, and applying vibration transducers on all windows defeats laser microphone pickups with a constant background of random mixed voice fragments. Faraday c

    • "I've written new software that can use the wifi signals bouncing around in your home to help you change channels on your TV, or possibly give surreptitious surveillance to any law enorcement agency that can get a bullshit warrant from a rubber stamp judge. We promise it will only be used to help you change the TV channel."

      Do programmers even filter this stuff through their conscience any more?

      .

      Yes, we do. However, on the one hand, we come up with ways to make life (allegedly) easier and more entertaining. On the other hand, you have people who would gladly snoop by bouncing rocks off your house and listening to the echoes if they could et away with it. Bouncing light beams off glass windows to "hear" what was being said inside, in fact was a spy trick that probably dates back to the 1950's.

      People with evil intent are with us always, and as far as I'm concerned, the most evil of the lot are the on

  • Roke Manor (Score:4, Interesting)

    by A non moose cow (610391) <slashdot@rilo.org> on Tuesday June 04, 2013 @05:04PM (#43908395) Journal
    Branching from an idea from over a decade ago. http://tech.mit.edu/V121/N63/Stealth.63f.html [mit.edu]
    • by Chuckstar (799005)

      I was thinking the same thing but couldn't remember any of the specifics. I'm glad you had the link handy. This note is in lieu of mod points, since I don't have any right now.

  • This is not unlike 3D video, a sort-of-possibly-good feature that requires upgrades to a large subset of your electronics. I have some old but serviceable stereo components, and my TV is 5 years old, which is old in the TV industry as it is-- heck, the remote control on the TV doesn't even work, so changing inputs is tricky. Most of my stuff will not work with this rig. Airport is similar. It kind of works, with lots of gotchas (no oggs in your library, right? And that iPod Touch is too old to stay connecte
  • by sehlat (180760) on Tuesday June 04, 2013 @05:06PM (#43908409)

    I'll tell you when you're older, dear.

  • "Luke, pull my finger!"

  • So, all of those fancy gestures they make in anime to make their powers work is just them communicating with their weapons on a wi-fi network?
  • by Cro Magnon (467622) on Tuesday June 04, 2013 @05:18PM (#43908505) Homepage Journal

    Okay, I'm working on a report on my laptop while watching Sean Hannity. Sean says something annoying, I give him the finger - and then my laptop shuts down without saving my work!

  • by Dahamma (304068) on Tuesday June 04, 2013 @05:19PM (#43908511)

    According to TFA, this detects *movement* by Doppler shift in the wireless signal - yet it describes it as "similar to Xbox Kinect" but with a bunch of advantages.

    However, Kinect doesn't just detect motion - it detects and reports skeletal position regardless of movement. Major differences in potential applications there (especially as the Kinect 2.0 has the resolution to detect finger position/movement as well) - probably not that great for most games.

    One thing I can think of that this could be great for - home security. The current crappy IR motion sensors have to have semi-line of sight and (despite what they advertise) are NOT very pet-friendly (especially for large dogs). So, as long as it can tell the difference between a St. Bernard and a guy in a St. Bernard costume...

    • by stenvar (2789879)

      Of course, it's not actually as good as a regular, cheap motion sensor.

      • by Dahamma (304068)

        Of course, it's not actually as good as a regular, cheap motion sensor.

        Apparently it works off of ambient RF in the house with a single AP that can detect motion (including specific gestures) anywhere in its range. *IF* it does what they say it does (who knows...) then it's WAY better than a cheap (IR) motion sensor. Especially if it can be programmed to ignore my cat and dog :)

  • /me puts tinfoil hat on wireless router.

  • by wcrowe (94389) on Tuesday June 04, 2013 @05:50PM (#43908789)

    It's great until your Italian grandmother comes by for a visit.

  • Neat, though I wonder about the privacy issues of its widespread use. If you can scan for a doppler frequency shift in the next room and record change over time, you could capture your neighbours position over time and render their movements on-screen.

    Obligatory sci-fi reference: Continuum [youtube.com] did something like this last year.

  • "These walls are solid Krell metal" said Dr. Morbeus. He waved his hand over the electrode and the walls slammed quickly into place.

      -- Forbidden Planet

    • by roc97007 (608802)

      Well, but, except for the krell metal, we could do that since 1948 (when the phototransistor was invented).

      Now, just making cabalistic gestures at empty air and making complex things happen... I'm trying to think of a non-fantasy story that had this.

  • So this tech seems to use doppler shift of signals.

    While I am sure some wifi hardware measures doppler shift to try to correct for it and get better reception in moving vehicles, none that I know of makes this info available to the driver, let alone exposes it to any program running on the router/laptop/phone.

    So how does this work?

  • I had an S3, and the damn thing drove me insane. One can turn off gestures for the core phone, but then you have to turn it off for every app as well, and guess what...some apps don't allow one to do so. Such as, I dunno, the default web browser. Which is just awesome for someone with a movement disorder such as mine (somewhat similar to parkisons). The damn phone was damn near unusable.

    If my whole house started doing such as a requisite for simply getting bloody internet access, I would officially flip the fark out - sell off everything I own, and move to Costa Rica where I'd spend the rest of my days drinking whiskey from a coconut, while sitting on the beach in Punta Uva. Which really, sounds like a win, but my wife said she won't let me unless I legit go insane...and damnit, she knows.

    Sidebars aside, sucks that some companies make their interfaces go such directions. Somewhat like back when it became impossible to find a cell phone which was only a cell phone and had no camera, I fear much will continue going down the route of touch and gestures...things which I, alas, can't do with finesse. (is this where I tell you punk kids to get off my lawn?)

  • How long before they can "see" what people are doing inside their homes by reconstructing movement and position data through listening in on the electric cables down the street? Tin foil, anyone?
  • ...you know the rest. This could get interesting.

  • No one remembers this from Isaac Asimov's Robots of Dawn? Seriously?

  • Clap on. Clap off. The Clapper.
  • but 2.4 GHz into 299,792,458 m/s is about 12 cm, probably too long to recognize my middle finger.

  • This actually sends chills down my spine. Like, literally. This is only a few steps away from any Tom-Dick-or-Harry being able to see through every wall around them. Police surveillance? Military reconnaissance? Peeping on the neighbors?

    And just like those infrared camcorders that were abruptly pulled from shelves, after people started using them for more than just "bird watching"... there is an absolute guarantee that this technology will be abused. Nothing you do in your own home or anywhere else will be

  • I was thinking, it might be nice to have an object to wave, perhaps in a wand shape, to increase the accuracy of gesture recognition. And maybe you could speak a command while you're doing it - special Latin or nonsense words, so it doesn't get confused with normal English conversation.

    Wait, where have I seen that before...

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