Seriously, you can't say anything anymore – just the vibrations on a crisp packet can give away your deepest secrets
Jeez. As if surveillance wasn't all-encompassing enough, what with our Facebook messages and emails being read by the NSA, CCTV covering every corner the country and geotagging revealing our locations constantly, scientists have now worked out a way to decipher what you've said based on the vibrations of everyday objects in proximity to you.
Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have discovered that pretty much anything can be a microphone. By zooming in on the tiny vibrations that occur on objects during speech, scientists are able to determine exactly what has been said.
Speaking on the MIT website, researcher and study author Abe Davis discussed the discovery of this brand new information: “When sound hits an object, it causes the object to vibrate. The motion of this vibration creates a very subtle visual signal that’s usually invisible to the naked eye. People didn’t realise that this information was there.”
In one experiment, the team were able to recover the sound of Mary Had A Little Lamb playing through a speaker, just by measuring the vibrations taking place on the plant's leaves and using a particular processing algorithm.
Then they took it even further. They placed a crisp packet on the floor and a camera behind a soundproof window. Just by looking at the vibrations made on the crisp packet, the researchers were able to extract the sound of someone singing the same nursery rhyme.
This means that if you've got a guilty secret that you don't want to fall into the wrong hands you'd better keep schtum (even more schtum than before). Technology is becoming so good that even your imperceptibly vibrating snacks can give you away.
Alexei Efros, a professor from the University of California, admitted that this research is the stuff of sci-fi dreams. “We’re scientists," he said. "Sometimes we watch these movies, like James Bond, and we think, ‘This is Hollywood theatrics. It’s not possible to do that. This is ridiculous.’ And suddenly, there you have it. This is totally out of some Hollywood thriller. You know that the killer has admitted his guilt because there’s surveillance footage of his potato chip bag vibrating.”
So world, there you have it – watch your mouth. No more gossiping about murders you've committed over a bag of Quavers.