Feb16

New Technology Lets Us See What You Are Saying

Posted by Kelly Kirkham

Motion microscope enhances sound waves moving through solid material which can be magnified and turned back into sound. Read more…

Many things go unnoticed by our naked eye as we walk through the world. As amazing and complex as the human eye is, it is limited in range from the very small to the very far away. Because of this, man has turned to technology for assistance in seeing what couldn’t be seen before almost 600 years ago with the first microscopes and telescopes. These devices pushed us towards major developments as a species by allowing us to see microscopic cells in a drop of blood as well as the mysteries deep within our galaxy and beyond.

In the same way that our eyes are limited by distance and size, our eyes aren’t developed in a way that we can notice subtle changes in color or miniscule movements within a static object or individual. Developments in technology have allowed us to once again surpass an evolutionary barrier that once limited our sight.

This TED Talk explains the use of a “motion microscope” to enhance tiny changes in the world around us. The implementations are simply awe-inspiring. Michael Rubinstein, a Research Scientist with Google, brings us technology we have only encountered in far-fetched science fiction to prove that our world is much more dynamic that we have ever imagined.

Rubinstein explains this by taking an everyday video from a smartphone or video camera and using their “motion microscope” to process each pixel in the video to amplify each small change. Through this process they can take a video of an individual sitting as still as possible and reveal the subtle changes of their pulse pushing blood throughout their body. Similarly, while sleeping babies are checked on dozens of times throughout a single night by some anxious new parents, with the “motion microscope” the program can exaggerate each small breath the baby takes, calming minds and allaying fears.

The practical applications of this video process basically touches every industry. An inexpensive video can be boosted to show wear patterns in machinery or the structural weaknesses of a crane blowing in the wind. And we haven’t even touched on the medical and military uses.

Rubinstein walks us through a process whereby a video camera is focused on an empty potato chip bag while someone talks in the room. By enhancing the video we are able to see sound waves as they pass through the material of the chip bag and are able to reconstruct sounds based on the motion detected by the video. The result is what can only be considered superhero vision!

The ability to see what someone is saying from across the street could potentially go a long way in the world of security and protection. However,  “motion microscopes” could also create major waves in the world of privacy due to the fact that anyone with an internet connection and a computer has access to the software. One thing is certain: technology is constantly being used to create mind-boggling situations as well as creating ways for humankind to better understand the world we live in.

Researchers at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) along with CSAIL (Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory) and Quanta Research Cambridge have taken very simple ideas to create a dramatic change in the information we are able to take from a simple video. The strangest part is that we could have been using this technology for many years, proving that true ingenuity doesn’t have to come from a lab or grand invention but merely by thinking of new and creative ways use the tools we have to see the world in a whole new way.

 

 

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