Researchers Develop Video Technology To Listen to Objects

June 13, 2017 3 min read

researchers develop video technology to listen to objects


By now, there’s a good chance you’re already aware that video surveillance and CCTV cameras everywhere we go can be considered an intrusion of our collective privacy.  It’s difficult to walk down the street without being videotaped, and with facial recognition software now in use, one has to ask, "What's next in the race to rid us of our privacy?"

Now imagine a video technology that can take images without sound, and recreate all the available sounds that were happening in real life during the same time said video was taken.

Sounds pretty incredible, no?   Well that’s exactly what researchers at MIT done, and while a technological marvel, it spells even less privacy for the rest of us.



Objects Are Turned Into Visual Microphones

Abe Davis
, a computer visuals expert, talented musician, and MIT PhD student, took an established video software program developed by Michael Rubenstein of MIT, and added to it in order to capture and reproduce sound from silent videos.

The software in question takes high-speed video of an object, and through the tiny vibrations on the object(s) caused by the ambient sound around it/them, can reproduce the exact sound(s) needed to cause those exact vibrations.

Sound causes all matter to vibrate, and these vibrations are often too subtle for the human eye to pick up.  But by capturing high-speed video, Davis was able to extract these tiny movements from vibration, and run them through an analysis program which determines the related sound required to cause them.

(It should be noted that laser microphones already have this capability of recording conversations from a distance, but have to be used in real-time, whereas this new technology could be used to analyze videos from years or decades ago.)



Non-Invasive Uses for the Technology

Aside from giving the powers that be the ability to listen to our conversations at any time in any place, regardless of having a microphone around, this new video technology does have some positive upside as well such as engineering and medical applications.

Davis ended up modifying his software to create 3D, fully animated objects, and then by using simulated sound vibrations, the software can predict how those objects will respond to new situations and physical manipulation.

An example of the practical application of this would be completely 3D modeling high-rise buildings on a computer, then test their reactions to simulated, natural forces such as hurricanes or earthquakes.  Structural engineering could see great advances through the application of this new tech.

The medical field could also find numerous ways of using this sound application.  For instance, a biomarker for Parkinson’s disease could be found by capturing and analyzing the rapid eye movement that’s become a hallmark for the progression of the disease.  There will also be many applications for it when utilizing a remote doctor through a program such as Skype.  The video of the patent will be enough to make several prognoses.

Another interesting application of this technology is pushing the boundaries of space exploration.  Instead of having to be on the other side of the galaxy, just the video alone will give scientists insights they would never otherwise be able to gain.



The Familiar Give and Take of Technology


This is a song and dance we should all be accustomed to by now.  We live in an era that sees technological advances like no other time in human history.  These advances come at an exponential rate, so the more things we discover, the faster we will discover more.  This means the wonders that will happen in our lifetimes will be beyond comprehension at this very moment, but they will all come at a cost.

While it’s amazing a software program could analyze video from the storming of the beaches of Normandy and recreate every available sound that day, giving a government entity the power to “hear” our conversations, even decades after the fact, is a gross invasion of privacy and could be used against a non-compliant society in the future.

We’ve said it many times, but our convenient lives are coming at the cost of our privacy and security.  We have to hold our leaders accountable so that they demand oversight, otherwise we’ll end up with a psychotic, controlling Big Brother the likes of which George Orwell could never have imagined.



Josh Bare
Josh Bare

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