You know that bag of chips sitting on your kitchen counter? It’s “listening” to all the sounds in your room, and if the right visual filming equipment looks at it, other people can can hear inside your room, too.
Yes, they can hear the sounds simply by looking at the bag, even through a sound-proof glass door, no sound recording needed whatsoever.
“That’s the results of the astounding visual microphone,” project done by researchers at MIT, reports by Sarah Lewin for IEE Spectrum’s blog.
It works like this: All sound creates vibrations. Those vibrations move your eardrum and that’s why you can hear.
Sound vibration can also microscopically move other objects in the room. The researchers used a high-speed camera to film such objects and wrote an algorithm to translate the tiny movements captured on film back into the sounds that created them.
Some objections captured visual sounds better than other. For instance a bag of chips, great; a potted plant, mediocre; a soda can, bad.
The researchers were able to re-create the sounds, even when filming an object through a sound-proof glass door.
Here’s one example. A man recited “Mary Had A Little Lamb” in a room with a bag of chips. It sounded like this (video below takes about 10 seconds):
They filmed a bag of chips through a sound proof glass door and re-created the sounds. This is what they heard:
The obvious implications are for video surveillance, solving crimes, and maybe spying. But who knows what kinds of creating ways talking chip bags can be used? Time will tell. The researchers plan to release the code that makes this work on the project’s website.
That website also has more samples of the types of things they were able to hear by filming objects in a room.
Here’s the full YouTube video explanation of the project, which was uploaded on Tuesday and is already starting to go viral.
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