Phones keep getting smarter, and soon they may even become super. As if phones that stream videos and reveal your exact geographic location weren’t advanced enough, the cell phones of the (near) future could soon have cameras that feature comic-book-hero style ‘X-ray’ vision, thanks to Dr. Kenneth O and his team of electrical engineers at the University of Texas at Dallas.
If you want to get technical, X-rays aren’t what is going to put superpowers in the palm of your hand—terahertz (THz) radiation will. Terahertz waves are found on the electromagnetic spectrum between the microwaves that heat your leftovers and the infrared waves that give us night vision. Like X-rays, terahertz radiation can “pass through clothing, paper, cardboard, wood, masonry, plastic and ceramics.”
Up to this point, terahertz radiation has not been successfully incorporated into consumer devices. But, according to the UT Dallas news release, Dr. O’s work builds a image processor using CMOS (Complementary Metal-Oxide Semiconducter) technology that is widely used in PCs, smart phones, high definition TV’s, and gaming consoles.
The camera on your current phone—in basic terms—uses a single lens to direct light onto a device (like a chip with a CMOS sensor) that stores the information needed to create those Tweet-able images. A terahertz-enabled phone would work the same way, but the chip would have a THz sensor to generate a picture from an object the terahertz waves were able to reach on the other side of the wall.
For those who hold that what’s going on inside their rooms, garments, and backyards is their own business, the researchers say they are only looking at the possibility of capturing images from within a few inches. “The major concern for this technology is privacy, so we’ve made it that you need to place the imaging device very close to the object you are looking at,” Dr. O told the Los Angeles Times. “We are talking about a distance of 10 centimeters, so it would be very difficult for someone to sneak up on you and…you know.”
Dr. O said his team foresees this new technology doing anything from helping the average Mr. Fix-it find studs in the wall to diagnosing cancer.
Watch Erik Shute from Mashable explain the research here: