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Smartphones might soon get X-ray vision thanks to new discovery

Imagine seeing through walls with your smartphone. Thanks to Texas researchers, this could soon be a reality.

iPhone 15 Pro camera close-up
Image: Unsplash

Imagine being able to see through walls or inside boxes using your smartphone. It sounds like science fiction, but thanks to a breakthrough from Texas researchers, it might not be for much longer.

The team has developed a tiny new imaging chip that can detect the outlines of objects through barriers like cardboard.

“It’s similar to the large screening devices we’re familiar with at airport security, but this one uses electromagnetic frequencies between microwave and infrared that are considered safe for humans.” (Futurism)

The chip is powered by CMOS technology, which is the same stuff used in computer processing and memory chips. It’s like having Superman’s X-ray vision in the palm of your hand, but instead of X-rays, it uses signals at 200 gigahertz to 400 gigahertz.

“The researchers have designed the technology with safety in mind. The chip’s wave-reading capabilities have been limited so that it can only detect objects through barriers from a few centimeters away. This should prevent it from being used to snoop on people’s bags or packages.” (Futurism)

While this technology is still experimental, it has the potential to see through walls, though the researchers haven’t tried that yet. For now, it’s limited to seeing through less substantial mediums like boxes, dust, or smoke.

The real breakthrough here is miniaturizing this technology and making it safe and affordable enough to potentially be used in consumer devices. The fact that it’s powered by CMOS technology, which is already widely used in smartphone cameras, is a big deal.

It’s still early days for this technology, and there are plenty of ethical considerations that will need to be addressed before something like this ends up in our hands.

But the potential for it to transform everything from security screening to medicine is huge. And who knows, maybe one day we’ll all have a little bit of Superman’s X-ray vision in our pockets.

But as with any powerful new technology, there are major ethical considerations that will need to be addressed as this technology develops.

Privacy concerns

person using a smartphone
Image: Pexels

Privacy is an obvious concern. Do we really want to live in a world where people can potentially see through our clothes or handbags just by pointing their smartphone at us?

Then there’s the issue of how this technology might be used by law enforcement or other authorities. Could we see a future where police are using smartphones to see inside our homes or vehicles without a warrant?

These are the kinds of questions that will need to be answered as this technology becomes more widespread.

The researchers behind the imager chip seem to be taking these concerns seriously. They’re focused on limiting the technology’s capabilities and preventing it from being used in ways that could infringe on our privacy.

But as we’ve seen time and time again, it’s impossible to anticipate every way that a new technology might be used (or misused) once it’s out in the world.

As with any powerful new technology, it’s incumbent on all of us to think carefully about how it might be used and misused.

This responsibility extends from the researchers and engineers building it to the companies selling it and the governments regulating it, who must take steps to mitigate any potential harm.

Once something like this is out of the bottle, it’s going to be very hard to put it back in.

The idea of giving smartphones the ability to see through solid objects is undeniably cool. It’s the kind of thing that feels like it belongs in a science fiction movie, not in our real lives.

But as this breakthrough from the team in Texas shows, it might not be science fiction for much longer. As this technology continues to develop and miniaturize, we can expect to see it show up in more and more devices.

It could transform everything from security screening to medicine to the way we navigate the world around us. And who knows, maybe one day we’ll all have a little bit of Superman’s X-ray vision in our pockets.

But as with any powerful new technology, we’ll need to be careful about how we build it and how we use it. Because once we have the ability to see through solid objects, there’s no going back.

And it’s up to all of us to ensure this power is wielded responsibly and benefits everyone.

What are your thoughts on this X-ray technology for smartphones? Drop us a line below in the comments, or carry the discussion to our Twitter or Facebook.

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Kevin is KnowTechie's founder and executive editor. With over 15 years of blogging experience in the tech industry, Kevin has transformed what was once a passion project into a full-blown tech news publication. Shoot him an email at kevin@knowtechie.com or find him on Mastodon or Post.

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