You may not realize it, but your heart is unique. Not only that, but what makes it unique to you is something the Pentagon can now detect from over 200 yards away with a frickin' laser beam. It's not attached to a shark (sorry, Dr. Evil), but the prototype laser, called Jetson, is impressive nonetheless.
Why develop something like this? Your cardiac signature is unique to you, just like your fingerprint. There already exists ways for US intelligence and security agencies to identify people through various biometric techniques, from iris scanning to even analyzing someone's gait, but a cardiac signature is different because it can not be altered.
According to MIT Technology Review, the Jetson laser works at up to 200 meters away (219 yards). To put that into context, that is the equivalent of more than two American football fields. And in time, Jetson might even be able to detect unique cardiac signatures from much longer distances.
"I don't want to say you could do it from space, but longer ranges should be possible," said Steward Remaly from the Pentagon's Combatting Terrorism Technical Support Office.
When your heart beats, it creates surface movement. The Jetson laser can detect that movement using a technique called laser vibrometry, and it can be done through clothing such as t-shirts and even jackets. However, it can be thwarted by wearing thicker cloathing, such as a winter coat.
The other limitation for the time being is how long it takes to get a result—it takes around half a minute, which essentially limits its effectiveness to subjects that are sitting or otherwise standing in one place. That said, when it works, it works well. The team that developed it claims it is over 95 percent accurate in good conditions, and could further improve over time.
While security is one use for something like this, Jetson could be adapted other fields, such as medical where it could be used to remotely scan arrhythmias and things of that nature, the developers say.