If you were ever a fan of any of the "Superman" television series on TV over the years, you know that X-Ray vision was always one of the superhero's most impressive skills. Despite claims by one product or another (who hasn't heard of X-ray goggles), it seemed like the technology was doomed to stay in the world of science fiction. But all that may change...
A press release from MIT announced a new radar technology, developed in their labs, which claims the ability to see through walls.
"Much as humans and other animals see via waves of visible light that bounce off objects and then strike our eyes' retinas, radar "sees" by sending out radio waves that bounce off targets and return to the radar's receivers," the release explained.
Researchers at MIT's Lincoln Lab have built a radar system that can penetrate walls enough to give an "instantaneous picture of the activity on the other side."
"Transmitters emit waves of a certain frequency in the direction of the target. But in this case, each time the waves hit the wall, the concrete blocks more than 99 percent of them from passing through. And that’s only half the battle: Once the waves bounce off any targets, they must pass back through the wall to reach the radar’s receivers — and again, 99 percent don’t make it. By the time it hits the receivers, the signal is reduced to about 0.0025 percent of its original strength."
Although co-creater Gregory Charvat notes that the technology has "powerful implications for military operations," he told CNN that the system still has its limits.
“Eight inches is all we’ve been able to do,” Charvat told CNN. "[Visibility] may be able to be increased by more transit power or lowering the frequency. The lower you go in frequency, the better it is, but it becomes a resolution issue."
The technology, detailed in a paper in the IEEE Xplore digital library, also filters out inanimate objects. PopSci reports that "furniture and other obstructions won’t show up in the final results, but humans--even humans trying their best to remain motionless--will register."
While American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Massachusetts spokesman Chris Ott told CNN in an email that he is wary the technology could be used to violate civilians' privacy, Charvat told the publication that using the system for anything other than military operations isn't likely.
“I can’t really think of any civilian use. Maybe it could be used in reconnaissance robots, for navigation for them, but it would be a totally different application," said Charvat, according to CNN.
WATCH: [via MIT News]