When I first came across this story, I thought it was a joke. But a little googling convinced me it’s not.
Researchers at a Texas university have designed a chip that could give smartphones the long-envied ability of comic book hero Superman to see through walls, clothes or other objects.
A team at University of Texas at Dallas tuned a small, inexpensive microchip to discern a “terahertz” band of the electromagnetic spectrum.
The design works with chips made using Complementary Metal-Oxide Semiconductor technology behind processors commonly found in personal computers, smartphones, televisions and videogame consoles.
“CMOS is affordable and can be used to make lots of chips,” electrical engineering professor Kenneth O said in a statement on Friday.
“The combination of CMOS and terahertz means you could put this chip and a transmitter on the back of a cell phone, turning it into a device carried in your pocket that can see through objects.”
To assuage privacy worries, the professor and his team at the Texas Analogue Center of Excellence are limiting their study to what the chips can make visible at distances of four inches (10 centimetres) or less, according to the university.
The terahertz band has wavelengths that fall between microwaves used for mobile phone signals and infrared that is employed for night vision goggles.
The chip designed by Mr O’s team detects terahertz waves and shows the resulting imagery, perhaps on a smartphone screen.
Mr O’s team highlighted potential medical uses such as enabling doctors to peer easily into patients’ bodies and practical applications along the lines of finding studs in walls.
“We’ve created approaches that open a previously untapped portion of the electromagnetic spectrum for consumer use,” Mr O said.
“There are all kinds of things you could be able to do that we just haven’t yet thought about.”
Well, I feel a lot better knowing the researchers will be “limiting their study to what the chips can make visible at distances of four inches or less.” Lord knows we wouldn’t want anyone wandering the streets taking a peek at everyone through their clothes.
Of course, once they develop the technology, I suspect there will be lots and lots of people, most of whom will be drawing government paychecks and and carrying badges, who’ll have no compunction at all about using the technology to spy on everyone on the street and in their homes. Store detectives will be using the technology to look for shoplifters…and really enjoying the work!
What? Fourth Amendment, you say? It won’t apply. “We’re not searching you,” they’ll say. “We’re just looking around. You know these goggles we wear can see through things so it’s up to you to stay out of our line of sight if you don’t want us to see you naked.”
On the plus side, girlie magazines will quickly be out of business. For that matter, so will porn sites. Why pay to look at pictures in a magazine or on your monitor when you can don your goggles and watch your neighbors getting busy.
Once this technology becomes commonplace, I think we’ll see lots of manufacturers weaving enough metal threads into their clothing lines to block the snooping. Aluminum siding will make a comeback. Other siding and roofing will begin incorporating metal particles.
You know, this new technology might well be a boon to the economy. Think of all the new jobs it will create as people clamor for new smartphones and other devices that will let them see what folks at the gym or the club or at the park really look like. Think of all the manufacturing and construction jobs it will create as the demand for the aforementioned siding and shingles skyrockets.
Professor Kenneth O and his team might well accomplish with their new technology what Our Dear Leader and his cabal have failed to do for three-plus years. And it won’t cost the taxpayers trillions of dollars.
The real question now is, do I invest in the spy goggles manufacturers or those who make the siding and roofing?
What do you think?