Roving Robots Can Look Through Buildings Using Nothing But Wi-Fi

Previously, we've seen researchers use everyday Wi-Fi signals like radar, able to detect shapes through a door or wall. Well, here's the logical next step toward the robot overthrow: Putting that tech on top of wheeled robots. You can run (okay, walk), but hiding behind a brick wall is futile.

Dr. Yasamin Mostofi and her research team at University of California, Santa Barbara, mounted Wi-Fi broadcasters and receivers atop autonomous bots. The wandering machines sense where the signals are strongest, or weakest, and with enough bumbling around they can generate a pretty accurate map of their surroundings. They can even sense the difference between a solid brick column and a hollow room with an object—or a person—inside. Just watch:

Obviously, you're not going to replace an engineer's floor plan with the fuzzy, approximate 2D picture the bots generate. But the fact that a common, low-power Wi-Fi signal can be used to see through walls holds tons of promise for search-and-rescue robots and other unmanned tasks. They'd also be unstoppable at hide-and-seek. [UCSB via The Verge]