The New Frontier for 3D Imaging

When I think of x-ray vision, superheroes come to mind. In a matter of weeks however, ordinary people with smartphones can have the power to “see” through walls. Using microchip technology, Walabot is a radio frequency sensor that generates 3-D images in real-time. The microchip comes in the form of a board that fits inside a cellphone case and magnetically attaches to the smartphone. Once connected via a cord, the sensor emits RF waves then translates those signals into digital data. Walabot can detect not only objects in its path but also information about that object, such as, speed, composition, and distance, through employing software and algorithms.

Though RF technology has existed for some time, Walabot is the first consumer-based, open-source sensor of its size. The applications of this technology are varied and potentially endless. From panning for gold to detecting tumors in breast tissue, Walabot allows humans to see the unseen rather inexpensively. Preorders start at $99 for a starter kit and up to $599 for a maker kit.

Already there’s been a small group of makers and techies playing with Walabots and holding hackatons to explore potential applications. When the chip becomes accessible to the public this April, Cities should take advantage of such technology and foster its own community of civic techies to consider 3D imaging in solving some of the most pressing urban problems. Particularly, the pairing of existing apps with a Walabot could be groundbreaking. It’s inexpensive enough to supply different departments with RF sensors and easy enough to interpret the data.