Whether you’re a schoolboy reading a comic and imagining the chaos you could wreak or a serious academic looking into the future of technology, the ability to see through solid objects is something which has always been an exciting prospect.
But a prospect was all it was – superhero vision seemed more at home in Gotham City than the real world, but now it looks like the tables might be about to turn.
The new technology
Israeli researchers have devised a method of seeing through opaque objects by turning surfaces into mirrors using nothing more than natural light. This is by no means the first attempt to devise such equipment, but it might be the first that’s actually feasible.
When light encounters an opaque surface it is scattered in all directions, and previously the only way to get around that was to fire a laser at the surface and reconstruct the image line-by-line afterwards. This was, predictably, a long process which required a hefty amount of technology for a relatively vague result.
The new technology seeks to make use of this diffused light as it bounces back, and using a computer controlled LCD screen the team are able to shape the wavefront of scattered light and put it back together into its original image. By correcting this scattering effect, the surface can essentially be turned into a mirror – imagine looking at a sheet of paper and seeing your reflection in it.
The technology is still in the early stages, and the ability to ‘see through walls’ is a prediction for the future – at present, the team have been able to utilise the camera to look through the kind of frosted glass we put in bathrooms to keep peeping eyes out.
Potential uses of a device capable of seeing through objects are many. Imaging through scattering layers could allow us to look through egg shells to study development, as well as examining body tissue without having to pierce the skin. On a broader scale, we could examine the cosmos accurately despite the presence of clouds.
Of course, all of these uses rely on technology capable of actually seeing through solid objects rather than opaques which it is at today. To this end, the Israeli team say that their next step will be to device a method of easily determining the light-scattering properties of objects to determine how to look through them.
Rob writes about technology for spectacles provider Direct Sight.