Walabot is a smartphone add-on that snaps on the back of your phone and lets you spot studs, pipes, and other obstacles in walls. Walabot shows how it helps you find pipes hidden behind walls (Photo via Walabot)
Ever wanted the ability to see through walls? Now, you may just be able to do so with a new sensor dubbed Walabot. The add-on doesn’t exactly give you the power to see through everything, but it can see through objects, liquids, and materials. Made with the DIY crowd in mind, it allows you to peek into drywall, cement, and other construction materials to spot studs, pipes, wires, and animal nests making sure you can avoid these obstacles before finding them the hard way.
So, how does it work? It uses RFID to do the imaging! Using Ultrawideband frequencies (depending on location) to do short-range imaging "into dielectric environments, such as drywall and concrete." The device clips on to the back of your phone, Android 5.0 or higher, via USB OTG. From there it scans the wall and shows you what’s behind it on your smartphone screen. Identifying these objects can help you know how far to cut or drill into a wall making sure you don’t damage wires or pipes. The device also has an adjustable sensitivity sensor for specific projects, three sensing modes for pipes, and can take screenshots for offline analysis. The add-on does all this by scanning the surroundings and transmitting, receiving, and recording signals from different antennas. From there, the recordings are analyzed to recreate a 3D image of the environment.
Luckily, you don’t have to be an expert to use Walabot. The add-on is supposedly built for amateur and expert makers alike. Examples of some projects Walabot works on include security monitoring, pitching speedometer, robotic vision enhancer, and VR movement tracker.
The creators of Walabot believe the device can go beyond home repairs. They think it could be used to monitor the elderly and respond when they fall. It sounds farfetched, but they just may be right. The add-on was originally designed to be a cost-effective way to track breast cancer. So, it’s possible it can do more than just spot those studs.
Walabot is compatible with different operating systems, including Raspberry Pi, Windows, and Linux. Right now, the device is only available in the UK for a special cost of 99 GBP. The original price is 200 GBP. There’s no word on when the add-on will cross shores, but if it turns out to be successful, we can expect it to be some time soon.
Walabot sounds like it’ll take the headache out of home renovation. With this, now you can avoid making holes in the wall only to find out you’re about to hit a pipe. While it is a cool idea, it brings questions of privacy. The add-on isn’t meant for ill purposes, but this doesn’t mean the technology can’t be abused. It’s something the creators should consider with Walabot. Though it’s only supposed to locate studs and pipes, many people may not be too thrilled at the thought that a smartphone device can see into their walls.
The Walabot team is promoting Makers and DIY applications for their sensor. I wouldn't mind making a Raspberry Pi based imaging device, to be honest.
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