Science Focus - the home of BBC Science Focus Magazine

Will we ever be able to see through walls?

Subscribe to BBC Science Focus Magazine and get 6 issues for just £9.99

Curtains may not be the solution to hide from curious neighbours for much longer…

Asked by: Tom Willis, Canterbury


The idea of ‘X-ray goggles’ that allow us to see through solid walls has been around for decades, but they’re a non-starter – not least because X-rays are surprisingly easily absorbed by brick and concrete. A cheaper, safer and more effective approach has now been developed by researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology using wireless signals.

We’ve all experienced the annoyance of radio reception changing as we move around a room. But Prof Dina Katabi and colleagues at MIT have found a way of exploiting this effect using software that converts the changing strength of wireless signals into images.

Because the wavelength of the signals is relatively large, the resolution is poor, so it’s not possible to create realistic images of people. But the team claim the technique is good enough to distinguish individuals based on their physical shape.


Subscribe to BBC Focus magazine for fascinating new Q&As every month and follow @sciencefocusQA on Twitter for your daily dose of fun science facts.


Robert is a science writer and visiting professor of science at Aston University.


Sponsored content