Scientists at MIT are using Wi-Fi and AI to determine your emotional state. They’ve created an algorithm that can detect and measure individual heartbeats by bouncing RF signals off of people.
An RF emitter coupled with the algorithm works in the same way as an electrocardiogram (EKG/ECG), without requiring any leads be attached to a person. This is accomplished using the same technology that we currently have in our home routers. The remarkable part is the machine-learning that goes into what the scientists are calling EQ Radio.
The information the AI receives has to be processed differently than a standard EKG. When a person is physically connected to a machine, the size and shape of the wavelengths that the computer expects to recieve can be anticipated. Without that tether, EQ Radio can’t make assumptions about your heartbeat. Your position, the size of the room, and a lot of other factors could, essentially, muffle your heartbeat. The AI gets a sense of what’s going on and then makes determinations about your heartbeat that allow it to provide accurate context to your emotions.
This technology is cool, and a little mind-boggling – it’s also the type of thing that inspires horrid future nightmares. As the scientists point out, this technology can do more than just exploit the human heartbeat to determine emotional state:
"We envision that this result paves way for exciting research on understanding the morphology of the heartbeat both in the context of emotion-recognition as well as in the context of non-invasive health monitoring and diagnosis".
The device doesn’t require contact with the person/people it monitors, thus it could prove difficult to detect, which raises ethical concerns. How much could an interested party learn from your heartbeat?
It’s not all Orwellian dystopia – there are practical uses that we should pursue. Imagine not having to scream at Alexa to play Enya music when you rage out. The AI behind EQ Radio could figure out that you’re stressed and cue the music without you even knowing you needed it.
What about the implications for a smart-home that can tell if you’re having a heart attack, just by ‘sensing’ the trouble through your re-purposed router? That might save a significant number of lives. There’s probably a pretty sizable market for parents as well – does your current router provide real-time EKG quality information about your sleeping newborn?
As with all new technology, especially that which has the potential to be used for evil, we should concern ourselves with safety and privacy. Artificially intelligent Wi-Fi routers that can detect a human heartbeat are on the way.
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