Sensing your gestures with WiFi

WiSee is a reasearch project at the University of Washington; as described in this paper, it uses standard WiFi hardware to sense the location and movements of people within range of the signal. Using machine-learning, it maps specific interference patterns to specific gestures, so that it knows that -- for example -- you're waving your hand in the air. This gesture-sensing can be used to control various devices in your home:

WiSee is a novel interaction interface that leverages ongoing wireless transmissions in the environment (e.g., WiFi) to enable whole-home sensing and recognition of human gestures. Since wireless signals do not require line-of-sight and can traverse through walls, WiSee can enable whole-home gesture recognition using few wireless sources (e.g., a Wi-Fi router and a few mobile devices in the living room).

WiSee is the first wireless system that can identify gestures in line-of-sight, non-line-of-sight, and through-the-wall scenarios. Unlike other gesture recognition systems like Kinect, Leap Motion or MYO, WiSee requires neither an infrastructure of cameras nor user instrumentation of devices. We implement a proof-of-concept prototype of WiSee and evaluate it in both an office environment and a two-bedroom apartment. Our results show that WiSee can identify and classify a set of nine gestures with an average accuracy of 94%...

WiSee takes advantage of the technology trend of MIMO, the fact that wireless devices today carry multiple antennas (which are primarily used to improve capacity). A WiSee/WiSee-enabled receiver would use these multiple antennas in a different way to focus only on the user in control, thus eliminating interference from other people.




  1. Rather than basic gestures, I’ll program it to recognize some basic behaviors…
    e.g. If I open the freezer door more than twice, I’ll have it play “Big Butts”  (the only reason that I open the freezer is to get ice cream).

    1. And, thanks to recent advances in security technology, the NSA will know exactly when you open your freezer! Which, you know, is fine if you don’t have anything to hide, do you, citizen?

      Also, Baby Got Back.

  2. Wow, faraday-cage insulation here I come….

    The spying/creep factor for this technology is pretty high.

    1.  I was gonna say… Oh cool, a whole new way for the government to spy on people.  Yay.

    2. We call those tin foil hats.  I knew the market would provide a legitimate use for them one day. Yay capitalism.

      1. I would like to see a Consumer Reports review of tin-foil hats.  I’m afraid they might just make you more visible.

        Tin-foil wallpaper, now….

        1. There’s actually been a couple of independent reviews of different models of tin-foil hats in different EM conditions! They’re at best totally useless because, um, hello, your face, and at worst actually amplify some wavelengths in your head area.

          Assuming you credit mind-control rays in the first place, of course.

    3. The spying/creep factor for this technology is pretty high.

      I do wonder if people who live in apartment buildings will be able to use this to detect if their neighbors are home and then rob them.

  3. So… basically, the powers that be can potentially track you wherever there’s wifi? So a swat team could know where in the house everyone is before they enter, for example.

    1. Probably.

      Now, after a few interations of CALEA they might not need to bring their own gear – just use the government-mandated backdoor in your and your neighbours’ wireless routers to get access to their government-mandated location tracking features.

      Come to think of it, that might be what finally protects us from such spying – home routers are so buggy and low-quality, the location tracking implemented in them would probably be useless.

  4. This is the radio equivalent of the device Batman uses in The Dark Knight to spy everywhere at once…

  5. Meh.  It’s a similar principal as radar.  But can it distinguish between different people, especially at the same time?  I mean I don’t want to be in the bathroom doing my business only to have the lights go out when I stretch my arms above my head.  Or have the TV turn off when someone else in the room does something.

    It’s an interesting proof of concept, but I’m not sure I see a lot of useful applications for it yet.

  6. the spying/behavior monitoring aspect is beyond creepy.  I don’t think I’m going to like this century.

    but honestly, my first thoughts were the chores Mr. Miagi made Daniel-san do that ended up teaching him karate.

  7. The wavelength of a 2.4GHz WiFi signal is about 12.5 cm or 5 inches. If you try using it for imaging, you won’t be able to resolve features much smaller than a wavelength: at best you could detect formless moving blobs.

  8. It could be used in crime investigations to find out the time of a certain event, and the manner it happened.

  9. Could make for some awesome pranks. Like if it could tell when your roommate is masterbating, have it play “When the Children Cry” and have the screen display his family photos and “god kills kittens” memes.

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