Written by Claudia Capos
Things are not always what they appear to be in Kevin Fu’s laboratory at U-M’s College of Engineering.
On any given day, research investigators may use an antenna to fool the lab’s temperature sensor into giving a false reading of below absolute zero ― a temperature so low it does not exist in the natural world. They also have utilized a laser light beam to inject false voice commands in a voice-controlled assistant from a distance of 300 feet, roughly the length of a football field.
While these scientific shenanigans seem more like hackers’ pranks, they are meant to illustrate an important point: The electronic devices on which we depend are not as secure and trustworthy as we thought.
“It’s possible to use everyday physics ― such as radio waves, ultrasonic beams, sound waves, lasers, and even laser pointers and flashlights ― to trick these devices into seeing false realities,” says Fu, associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science.