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Cellphones Handhelds Science Build Technology

Echolocation For Your Cell Phone 73

Posted by samzenpus
from the map-it-out dept.
sciencehabit writes "In a few years, an iPhone app may give you a 3D layout of a room as soon as you step into it. Researchers have developed an algorithm that spits out the shape and contours of complex structures (including Switzerland's Lausanne Cathedral) using data compiled from four randomly placed microphones. The technology, which relies on the same sort of echolocation bats and dolphins use to navigate, could be used to develop more realistic echoes in video games and virtual reality simulations and to eliminate the echo from phone calls."
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Echolocation For Your Cell Phone

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  • by Thud457 (234763) on Monday June 17, 2013 @04:38PM (#44034001) Homepage Journal
    Lucius Fox will use it, but under protest.
    • Re: (Score:1, Troll)

      Lucius Fox will use it, but under protest.

      Lucius Fox wouldn't be caught dead working for Apple. He wouldn't even work for the government. At Wayne Enterprises, it was setup for a short period of time, to justify a legitimate clear and imminent threat to the people, and was dismantled as soon as that threat was gone, and no "metadata" was collected; It was a targetted search. Apple collects and stores all of your searches, sells location information to the highest bidder, and could give a flying fuck through a rolling doughnut about your privacy.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by ArcadeMan (2766669)

        Apple collects and stores all of your searches, sells location information to the highest bidder, and could give a flying fuck through a rolling doughnut about your privacy.

        I think you're confusing Apple with Google.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          Is there a difference?

          • by Anonymous Coward

            see https://www.apple.com/apples-commitment-to-customer-privacy/
            and then please post a link where google explcitly states it does not
            "... store data related to customers’ location, Map searches or requests in any identifiable form"

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Apple collects and stores all of your searches, sells location information to the highest bidder, and could give a flying fuck through a rolling doughnut about your privacy.

          I think you're confusing Apple with Google.

          Google doesn't sell data, it uses it. You can decide which one is worse.

        • by z0idberg (888892)

          Maybe we should stick to comparing Apples with Apples.

        • I think you're confusing Apple with Google.

          I [huffingtonpost.com] don't [huffingtonpost.com] think [huffingtonpost.com] so [huffingtonpost.com]...

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Genetically enhanced soldier freeing himself using his voice and the computer in his brain:

      The Human Division, Episode 8: The Sound of Rebellion

  • Hmm... (Score:3, Funny)

    by girlintraining (1395911) on Monday June 17, 2013 @04:39PM (#44034003)

    Well, this will be fun. Bruce Wayne is probably the only one that could sue Apple for patent infringement and win.

    • by gl4ss (559668)

      it's swiss tech institute who made this, not apple.

      the iphone would need four randomly place mics on it too...

      • by gstoddart (321705)

        the iphone would need four randomly place mics on it too...

        Not quite. They didn't place 4 random mics on the phone (they'd be close enough to still be a point location) -- they placed the microphones in the room.

        So, this will only work if you've set up the room for it.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Won't somebody think of PRISM?

    That is all.

  • Now all I need is some ninja training, and I can become a real life Batman!
  • by mbone (558574) on Monday June 17, 2013 @04:46PM (#44034071)

    Want to bet Google tries to use this to do indoor mapping ?

    • Yeah ... that'd be great. Use some Google goggles, see in the dark using sonar and walk through the house in the dark.

      I'll still have one hand over the family jewels when I walk in the dark though, trust in technology only goes so far ...
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Other than being cool, what would the point of this be? If it's light I can see with my own eyes. If it's dark, there are already flashlight apps that cause light (instead of sound) to be projected, and I can still see with my own eyes instead of looking down at my screen. If I'm blind, I can't see the screen anyway. And yes, I read the last sentence in the summary, which doesn't really seem to have anything to do with giving you the layout of a room.

    Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying they didn't accomp

    • You just said that 3D mapping with only four microphones is useless in the real world.

    • by crakbone (860662) on Monday June 17, 2013 @05:15PM (#44034289)
      Having a phone that can tell you where the door is and what obstacles are in the way in a smoke filled room would be bad how? or could map the area of a new apartment your going to buy or sell is bad how? How about the constant mapping of a cave? Detecting shifts in foundation of your house over time? How much room on the inside of the stomach of that whale that just ate you and the little wooden boy? That is just off the top of my head. Just because you cannot think of a use does not mean someone else will not. This is really cool tech and I am sure people will find tons of uses for it. Just a few years ago no one was thinking about using the audio port of a smart phone for credit transactions.
      • by pspahn (1175617)
        If you can account for the sonic properties snow, you could probably adapt this into an avalanche beacon.
      • I am currently looking to buy a new house, and something like this would be awesome when trying to remember the layout of a house I looked at 3 days ago. I take pictures with my phone, which helps, but a rough floor plane would be really nice to keep it all straight.
        • OK, but just using the camera on that same phone would be so much better for remembering what those homes looked like...
        • a rough floor plane would be really nice

          Only if you like splinters. You need to sand it down.

      • Having the information yourself is generally not bad... The prism privacy concerns certainly can be a bit scary though... IE you being able to map out your house = cool. Hypothetical future adaptations... say your roomate getting a partial mapping of what you look like naked under a door.... not quite as cool.... Then the FBI having a general mapping of what rooms you go in in your house, how often... what they might skew as "suspicious activity" etc... is a bit closer to troubling. "Umm sir we could see yo
        • by drinkypoo (153816)

          say your roomate getting a partial mapping of what you look like naked under a door.... not quite as cool....

          Naked under a door, I look pretty much like any other very tall, slightly overweight, going-on-middle-aged man with his clothes off and with a door on top of him. I don't see how confirming that I look vaguely like that is a major threat to my privacy.

          the FBI having a general mapping of what rooms you go in in your house, how often...

          Literally can be garnered from outside your house with fancy thermal optics and/or radio waves.

          • first part, pretty accurate, but I know at least some people weren't big fans of the backskatter rays at airports etc... and yup also to the fact that the FBI can get a pretty good detail on your activities from outside of your house etc... But there also certainly is a distinction between A. When there is enough probable cause that it is worth it to put a few men and a van outside of your house... vs on a whim the FBI being able to go "OK how many people in chicago seem to be working on building something
          • Hmm, and after the FBI knocked the door down on top of you and then 15 storm troopers ran over said door to try and find you and eventually notice the spreading blood puddle - then I don't see why the medics would then need a cell phone app to visualize your squished body under the door.
          • by Holi (250190)

            >Literally can be garnered from outside your house with fancy thermal optics and/or radio waves.

            Which put's agents outside your house, with a chance of you noticing them pointing a FLIR camera at your house.
            Where as the phone could probably do all that for them remotely with no one the wiser, at least until they kick your door in.

            Hey now I know why your were naked under the door.

            • by crakbone (860662)
              What I do with a bowl of green jello in the privacy of my own home is none of your business.
    • Blind people cannot see, but they can hear Siri speak to them. Hand-held Sonar technology can be extremely useful to many.
  • Sounds like right out of a military R&D lab.

    One of these on a reconnaissance robot and you get the 3D layout, as well as everything moving.

    A rat-sized robot.
  • More details than just the story can be found in the supporting info of the publication, which includes pictures of the test setup and the resulting spectrograms. http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2013/06/12/1221464110/suppl/DCSupplemental [pnas.org]
  • by DrJimbo (594231) on Monday June 17, 2013 @05:03PM (#44034207)

    From the web page of one of the authors [harvard.edu]: Acoustic echoes reveal room shape [harvard.edu] (pdf).

  • by PetoskeyGuy (648788) on Monday June 17, 2013 @05:11PM (#44034275)

    I *gasp* read the actual document (http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2013/06/12/1221464110.full.pdf+html) and it sounds like some pretty complicated work. It relies on a bunch of separate microphones to listen in an absolutely silent room for the exact same noise and the echos of bounces. Since you know where the microphones are in relation to each other you can compute when the initial sound and echos hits each microphone and from there reverse construct where the sound must have originated and the echos tell you what it bounces of off.

    The math is a bit beyond me after being out of university for so long, but it seem similar to transliteration using in GPS where thanks to very fast sensor readings you can figure out where you are in relation to a fixed signal. To compute the shape in the in a noisy environment I wonder if you can use a "known" sound where you could listen for only that and filter out the regular noise. Either way the computation involved would be impressive but maybe not for the elusive "5 years time" computer.

    It would be cool to have something like this in my fishing boat where instead of a dot on the screen I could get something that tells me where the fish are and what kind too. :-)

    Maybe you could arrange them in a golumb ruler layout to further speed up processing... *sigh* Making websites pays well, but I miss computers science.

    • by pspahn (1175617) on Monday June 17, 2013 @05:58PM (#44034567)

      It would be cool to have something like this in my fishing boat where instead of a dot on the screen I could get something that tells me where the fish are and what kind too. :-)

      At what point do you stop cheating and start fishing? What's so wrong with having intuition about where the fish are? There are plenty of tell-tale signs that would give you clues to where the fish are hiding.

      I admit, I don't boat fish because it's absolutely way too boring. I prefer walking up the mountain river, pickup up river stones to see what bugs are underneath. Maybe boat fishing is just too different an animal that my tactics would not adapt well, but I doubt it. With enough experience, I am positive I could do just as well with a contour map of the water's floor and my own two eyes as the guy with the expensive boat with all kinds of sonic weapons.

      Recreational fishing should be low-tech. Having endless gadgets to push the odds ever in your favor defeats the purpose.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Recreational fishing should be low-tech.

        OMG. Other people are having fun but they're doing it wrong!

        Seriously, why do you care how other people fish?

        • by pspahn (1175617) on Monday June 17, 2013 @10:19PM (#44036229)

          I start to care when I find their trash littered all over the forest. I start to care when their loud boats zoom right into my casting line in the inlet. I start to care when their efficiency affect the experience for everyone else.

          But all of that is besides the point. Recreational fishing is a meditative thing. You do it on the weekends, or for a couple weeks at a time, so that you can escape the daily grind and restore part of your soul. The more machines you add to that experience... you know the rest.

          • by Holi (250190) on Tuesday June 18, 2013 @09:43AM (#44039289)

            >Recreational fishing is a meditative thing.

            For you, where do you get off trying to tell people how they do their recreational activities. You do things your way because they are fun for you. I do them differently because what you describe sounds painfully boring.

            • by pspahn (1175617)

              I guess it would be boring if you were terrible at fishing and never had success.

              I understand why people need to cheat and have all these machines to make it easier. It indeed would be boring to be a bad angler and unable to land fish.

        • by F34nor (321515)

          80% of fish stocks will be gone by 2040

  • No image of the 3D reconstruction to look at?
  • *hurls iPhone at mugger instead of Batarang*

    "Do'h"
      *slinks away with cape between legs.....mugger shrugs and picks up phone*

    mugger: "Cool!"

  • An app to use your phone to find things? What I really need is an app to help me find my phone.

    Yes, yes, I know all about WheresMy* - but that doesn't help when the batter is dead. :D

  • by rjstanford (69735) on Monday June 17, 2013 @05:48PM (#44034499) Homepage Journal

    I've been waiting for years for that little automatically updating map that video games promised me.

    Think about the possibilities of being able to grey it out too - imagine the convenience when hunting for your car keys, being able to see a ghost map on your phone of everywhere you've looked and say "Aha! That corner's missing! The extra treasure must be there!"

  • http://boblansdorp.blogspot.com/2012/10/microphone-and-speaker-based-sonar.html [blogspot.com] We used the speakers to make clicks, and the microphone to pick up the sound :)
  • would love this! making finding you anywhere that much easier!
  • Don't know why but when I first read the title I read it as alcoholism for your cellphone
  • It doesn't use echolocation to show you the room, though; it provides a direct visual map of the room, selective details about its contents (such as items sitting on shelves), and it works instantly. I think the app is called "Assistive Light" but I have also seen versions called "Flashlight". I always assumed iPhone had this, too....
  • I would love to use this too in my travels.
  • Live action Zork.

It's a naive, domestic operating system without any breeding, but I think you'll be amused by its presumption.

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