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Soon Your Doctor Will Be Able to Wirelessly Track Your Health—Even Through Walls

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Images captured by Katabi's device: photographic images (top row), keypoint confidence maps from RF signals (center), and skeleton parsed from keypoint confidence maps (bottom).

Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor Dina Katabi has created a device that can be placed in a user's home to track his/her physiological signals, even through walls.

Credit: Katabi et al.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor Dina Katabi has created a box, similar to a Wi-Fi router, that is placed in a user's home to track physiological signals such as breathing, heart rate, and sleep.

The box's operation hinges on the fact that every time people move, they change the electromagnetic field surrounding them.

The box sends a low-power wireless signal through a space the size of a one- or two-bedroom apartment, and the signal bounces off people's bodies. Using machine learning, the device analyzes the reflected signals and extracts physiological data.

The device has been installed in over 200 homes of both healthy people and those with conditions like Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, depression, and pulmonary diseases, says Katabi.

Data gathered over eight weeks from a Parkinson's patient shows that his gait improved each morning around the time he took his medication.

Says Katabi, "Not only do you start understanding the life of the patient, but you start understanding the impact of the medication."

Katabi is considering other applications for the technology, such as fine-tuning a smart home so when a user sits on the couch, a smart TV launches his/her favorite show.

From MIT Technology Review
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