Your snacks could be spying on you

Not to worry you, but it may never be possible to have a private conversation again. Turns out, anyone with a mobile phone camera and a crisp packet or a glass of water (or pretty much anything else) could potentially work out what you’re saying – even through glass.

As Mashable reports, a research team from Massachusetts Institute of Technology undertook a series of experiments to find out if they could capture speech through soundproof glass. They took high-speed video from one side of the glass of someone speaking on the other side, while an empty bag of crisps was at their feet.

When they later replayed the video, they were able to recreate the speech thanks to the way the sound waves made the crisp packet move. When someone talks, the objects around them all vibrate in sync. This is invisible to the human eye, but by filming at high speed and then slowing the recording down, the researchers were able to capture and analyse movements that are otherwise invisible to the human eye.

This enabled them to make an algorithm which would reliably reproduce the sound. They tested it with other objects, including a glass of water, plants, and a box of tissues, and it continued to work. (They’re calling it The Visual Microphone, and they have video proof.) They also found that the high speed video wasn’t necessary as mobile phones record in rows of pixels, meaning every infinitesimal movement is caught on camera.

So, in future spying on someone will be as easy as secretly filming them (and being fiendishly good at maths). I guess if we want to be sure to avoid eavesdroppers, we’ll all just have to text or email from now on. Oh, right. Well, silence is good, too.

Image by Gerolsteiner91 via Wikimedia Commons.

Diane Shipley