MIT can extract audio from a silent video using vibrations

MIT researchers have developed new technology that can record conversations via the miniscule vibrations that sound waves create in inanimate objects, paving the way for yet more invasive forms of surveillance.

Lead author Abe Davis and his team demonstrated that movements in objects like chip packets or pot plants could be recorded by video cameras and then turned back into audible sound, including words, even when the camera is outside the room where the conversation is taking place.

“Using only a video of the object and suitable processing algorithm we can extract these minute vibrations and partially recover the sounds that produced them letting us turn everyday objects into visual microphones,” said Davis.

According to the Telegraph, the research means that, “Soundproof rooms are no longer a defence against eavesdroppers,” and that surveillance cameras could now double as audio recorders without the need to install additional technology. Intelligence agencies already utilize a form of this technology although up until now, such systems have not been able to penetrate sound proof glass.

The video demonstration shows that by recording the vibrations of leaves on a pot plant, the words from the nursery rhyme Mary Had A Little Lamb could be discerned once the vibrations were translated into sound.

“In another experiment we recovered live human speech from video of a bag of crisps lying on the ground,” said Davis.

Alexei Efros, an associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science at the University of California at Berkeley, said the technology could eventually be used to determine guilt via surveillance footage of inanimate objects within the suspect’s home.

The technology obviously represents a huge opportunity for the state to conduct intrusive surveillance, meaning that even private conversations in apparently secure locations may now be fair game for Big Brother.

Companies like Google have already developed programs which detect the ambient background noise of a person’s environment to spy on their activities and bombard them with advertising.

As we have previously reported, new high-tech LED street lights being rolled out in major cities across America have the capability to record conversations as well as other “Homeland Security purposes.”

Such devices are just one component of a huge network of microphones embedded in everything from games consoles to gunshot detectors that are beginning to blanket our streets and dominate our home life.

In 2012, former CIA Director David Petraeus lauded this development as “transformational” because it would open up a world of new opportunities for “clandestine tradecraft,” in other words, government snooping is now a great deal easier due to the fact that people are willingly filling their homes with devices that double as surveillance bugs.