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Will MIT’s 'x-ray vision' help soldiers see through walls?

A complex new machine could help soldiers target unseen enemies — even if they're hiding in a concrete building

Though America's robotic drones may be prone to malware attacks, the U.S. military is still consistently at the forefront of cutting-edge technology. The latest? An experimental radar system developed at MIT that could help soldiers "see" enemies moving behind concrete walls, using something akin to "x-ray vision." For the "urban war fighter," such a machine has powerful implications, says MIT's Gregory Charvat, who helped lead the project. A guide to the technology and its possibilities:

How does it work?Humans can only see light emitted at certain wavelengths. This new technology employs short S-band radar waves invisible to the human eye. They're "similar to a Wi-Fi signal," and can penetrate walls in small quantities, says Leslie Horne at PC Mag. Normally, "99 percent of radar waves bounce off concrete walls." But the MIT team's "amplifier device" pushes more of the radar waves through walls up to 8 inches thick, and a receiver picks up any movement on the other side. That movement is then illustrated as a bright spot on a screen.

What does this "x-ray vision" machine look like?For now, it's an 8-foot-long "unassuming array of antennas" arranged into two rows and loaded onto a cart along with a small display screen, says Fox News

So how would the military use it?The technology, still in its testing phases, is "currently rather hefty," says Chris Matyszczyk at CNET. In the future, scientists "expect to see it mounted on a military vehicle" for field use. "Our objective is to aid the urban warfighter to assist his situational awareness," says Charvat. "If you're in a high-risk combat situation... you don't want to have to stand right next to a potentially dangerous building."

Sources: CNETFox News, PC Mag, Slate

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