In a scientific breakthrough that should excite teenage boys around the globe, scientists from the University of Texas at Dallas have created an imaging chip that could give smartphones, or other small cameras, a form of x-ray vision. This would allow anyone with such a camera to theoretically see through certain types of objects like human skin, drywall, wood, and most other things that were previously only viewable by the likes of Superman. While there are a ton of amazing uses for this technology, those living near pervs and creepers may feel a bit uneasy. It may soon become infinitely easier for a crazy person to stare at you while you undress or sleep.

How it works

The science is a bit complicated, but basically researchers have found a way to connect a new type of microchip technology to view into an unused range in the electromagnetic spectrum. You may not know it, but you see the electromagnetic spectrum every day. The reason we can see is because our eyes can tap into a small portion of the spectrum, which we see as visible light. Our technology has long been able to see more of the spectrum than us. 

AM and FM radios tap into Radio waves to pick up music over the air, our TV remote controls use infrared waves to communicate with the TV, our computers connect to the Internet over Wi-Fi, which uses low-intensity microwaves to see, and every time you’ve gone to the doctor to get a CAT scan, the doctor has looked at you using a device capable of seeing x-rays. Newer medical devices are even using gamma rays to kill cancer cells. If we had evolved differently, our eyes might have been capable of seeing any one, or all, of these currently invisible bits of the electromagnetic spectrum, but sadly (or goodly?) humans never had a need to see through each other. Thanks to science, we may soon have devices that can tap into the “terahertz range” of the spectrum, making it a lot easier for all of us to look under each others knickers.

The breakthrough here is that scientists have figured out how to combine seeing into this terahertz range with the chip manufacturing technology called CMOS (Complementary Metal-Oxide Simiconductor), which is used to make chips for computers, smartphones, HDTVs, game consoles, and many other objects we take for granted. 

Dr. Kenneth O, professor of electrical engineering at UT Dallas, geekily explains: “CMOS is affordable and can be used to make lots of chips. The combination of CMOS and terahertz means you could put this chip and receiver on the back of a cellphone, turning it into a device carried in your pocket that can see through objects.”

Endless possibilities

The team is already well aware of the creepy privacy implications of this, however, and that’s why it’s currently only working on a version of the technology with a “distance range of less than four inches.” At that short range, spying is a bit more difficult, but a world of opportunities may still open up. Imagine being able to use your phone to see through the wall to find studs (or maybe your cat). Documents could also be authenticated with far more precision and things like counterfeit money would be much easier to detect. The team also points toward wireless communication, which may be able to use this terahertz range to transfer files or information much faster than Wi-Fi.

Hell, maybe you’ll be able to scan your own body for tumors or that gum you swallowed seven years ago. This could lead to a whole new generation of hypochondriacs. Who knows. But one thing is certain: X-ray vision in phones could be very cool. Sign us up.