At some point, the difference between a "wifi receiver" and "RF receivers, including wifi" is splitting hairs, yeah?
Like, I understand that wifi is a specific protocol that uses a spectrum shared by lots of other devices, and that without the ability to generate more complex signals it won't actually be "wifi" but if a standard wifi radio can receive these signals and be made to understand them, wants the point of the pedantry?
If I get a box talking RS232 to a host with wifi, I can claim it talks to "signal receivers including wifi". It's not speaking wifi. The host is speaking wifi. Using that specific awkward wording was a big tell to me.
I mean, it's very cool stuff, but it's not things without electronics speaking wifi.
I haven't read the paper yet, so I can't speak to the specifics beyond what they included in the web page and their powerpoint.
The website says "Our goal is to 3D print wireless sensors, input widgets and objects that can communicate with smartphones and other Wi-Fi devices, without the need for batteries or electronics."
Now, based on my understanding of how wifi works, they would need direct control of the radio, and to write a custom driver in order for the data their devices produce to be readable by a smartphone.
It wouldn't technically happen over wifi, but to an end user the difference wouldn't matter.
@kurtm @Thib In the situation you're describing, there is a receiver other than the smartphone sitting between the device producing the signal and the wifi receiver that would receive and interpret the signal, and send the results out over wifi.
At some point, I'll actually read the paper and verify.
The neat thing here is that they are generating the signal without electronic components or electricity.
3D printing a sensor that can passively communicate is a big deal.
There's a wifi transmitter, and wifi receiver, and between them, the sensor.
The sensor modulates the wifi signal passing between the wifi devices.
The differences between the unmodulated signal and the modulated signal are decoded by a device at the receiving end.
They go in to the details in section 3.2 of the paper.
@email@example.com yep. I read about that a few years back.
Also magic, but pretty scary magic.
The details are covered in section 3.2 of the paper, which is linked from the page.
Basically, it uses a wifi transmitter and a wifi receiver. The transmitter is unmodified. The receiver is connected to a computer that is analyzing the data from the wifi receiver to look for the modulated signal from the 3d printed sensor.
Basically, they are using standard wifi hardware, with custom software on the receiving end.
@ajroach42 *squints suspiciously* OH interesting. Using: https://www.multi3dllc.com/product/electrifi-3d-printing-filament/ which uh... *is* electronics tyvm. Someone needs to pop them on the nose with a newspaper. All they're doing is non-commercially printed circuitry.
@bastlynn the neat parts here are 1) this was done with readily available 3D printable material. 2) the circuits they print don’t require a power source beyond ambient WiFi signals, because they’re basically antenna. 3) the receiver doesn’t require any special hardware. Just WiFi and some custom software.
These things are neat! With some refinement they could be practically revolutionary.
@ajroach42 also, I’m not sure why most of the comments on this have been pedantic hairsplitting over what qualifies as WiFi or what qualifies as electronics.
They use WiFi signals and the resulting modulated data can be read with a WiFi radio. That means they use WiFi, even though they aren’t sending packets.
The devices are unpowered, and basically just mechanical devices attached to cleverly built antenna. If you want to call an unpowered antenna electronics that’s fine. I don’t.
Either way this has the potential to dramatically change the way low/no powered sensors are built and deployed, which has the potential to be revolutionary.
Save your pedantry and your hottakes for someone else.
@ajroach42 just so i understand...they have conductive material in them, right?
@ajroach42 ohhhh got it!
yea this makes total sense then, like, most antennas are already printed layers
these are just really cute and clever
The clever bit here is honestly mostly in the decoding side.
I mean, backscatter RF signals are still essentially magic, and designing a system that can generate consistent and measurable information signals out of that is astounding.
Doing it with a consumer grade 3D printer puts it in to nearly unbelievable territory.