X-ray vision for the vitals - new wireless technology measures heart rate and breathing through walls

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These days there's perhaps no hotter tech topic than wearable sensors. Earlier this month, for instance, Apple announced a new “Health Kit” app for smartphones that tracks a person's health. But events such as Fitbit's recent recall of more than 1 million fitness bands over user skin irritations — and research published last week contending that health-trackers may be no more effective than a $25 pedometer — suggest that wearables have their drawbacks.

Imagine, then, if there was a technology that monitors your vital signs without touching your body — potentially even from another room.

Such science-fiction fantasies are becoming a reality, thanks to research conducted at MIT’s Wireless Center, hosted in the Computer Science and Artificial intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL).

Last year, a CSAIL team developed a wireless system that can track movement through a wall. Their latest report demonstrates that they can now detect gestures as subtle as the rise and fall of a person’s chest. From that, they can determine a person's heart rate with 99 percent accuracy. The research could be used for health-tracking apps, baby monitors, and for the military and law enforcement.

Read more at MIT News or in various media outlets, including Engadget, GigaOM, BostInno and Smart Planet.