The U.S. military can see you breathing on the other side of that wall. It can even see your heartbeat racing while you crouch behind the door. But if you think running farther away or hiding in a crowd will make you invisible to the Defense Department’s sensors, you might be in for a surprise. The Pentagon’s geeks are looking to tweak their life-form finder so they can spot your tell-tale heart no matter what you do.
Darpa, the Pentagon’s mad-science shop, announced last week that it’s looking to improve on technologies that sniff out biometric signatures like heartbeats from behind walls. Dubbed “Biometrics-at-a-distance,” the program seeks to build sensors that can remotely identify humans from farther away and tell them apart in a crowd.
Seeing or “sensing” human life through walls can be a pretty helpful trick. For troops that have to clear houses in search of terrorists or insurgents, it’s always nice to know what’s on the other side of that door. Picking up “life-form readings” may sound like science fiction straight out of Star Trek, but the Defense Department has been able to do it for years now.
In 2006, Darpa developed Radar Scope,which used radar waves to sense through walls and detect the movements associated with respiration. A year later, the Army invested in LifeReader, a system using Doppler radar to find heartbeats. More recently, the military’s been using devices like the AN/PPS-26 STTW (“Sense Through the Wall“) and TiaLinx’s Eagle scanner, which can sense the presence of humans and animals through walls.
Handy though these gadgets may be, Darpa wants to one-up them with some new and better capabilities.