Future Cellphones Could Pack Tech to See Through Walls

Back in 1998, Sony accidentally sold about 700,000 camcorders with lenses that use IR light to achieve a certain x-ray capability that can "see" through dark, thin clothing. While a similar feature never surfaced on the video camera and still camera market again, researchers believe they can go a step further and build imaging devices that are leverage terahertz electromagnetic waves to construct images.

Just like microwaves can be used for voice and data communication, like infrared waves can be used for night vision devices, terahertz waves can penetrate solid objects and identify objects behind them. Researchers at the University of Texas at Dallas (UT Dallas) claim that terahertz technology can be built it a CMOS chip that can be integrated into devices such as cell phones. However, the goal of such a product is not so much to achieve a voyeur-ish reputation as the Sony camcorder did.

The scientists have medical as well as emergency applications in mind. For example, the chip could be used to detect cancer tumors, or analyze air quality. To make sure that there are no privacy invasions, the chip in development will be limited to a range of four inches. However, if the technology works as promised, there is little reason to believe that products with greater ranges will be made available, for example for military applications. The UT Dallas scientists claim that the technology could also be used to accelerate data transmissions.

The UT Dallas team said that it is now planning to build an entire working imaging system based on its CMOS terahertz system.

Douglas Perry is an author and journalist from Portland, Oregon. His many articles have appeared in the likes of Tom's Guide, Tom's Hardware, The Oregonian, and several newspapers. He has covered topics including security, hardware, and cars, and has written five books. In his spare time, he enjoys watching The Sopranos.

  • brett1042002
    Interesting. I can only wonder what effect this will have on battery life when in use. Hopefully, by the time this tech arrived in a future cell phone, battery life will be a non-issue.
  • Murissokah
    Walls? Yeah, right...
  • jankeke
    "Just like microwaves can be used for voice and data communication,"

    ... and more importantly : cooking !
  • proxy711
    This will never make it to the consumer cell phone market even with a limited 4 inch range. The public outcry would be huge. Not to mention why the hell would the consumer ever need to see thru walls? The added cell phone part is kind of pointless.

    Def cool for military tech however.
  • asdf634
    Wall hack in real live? Next up - aim bot for soldiers!
  • for us folks that install data/telecom wiring this would be awesome to be able to see through drywall and to find those odd horizontal 2x4's that hinder dropping lines through some walls. would be like a studfinder on steroids.
  • freggo
    proxy711...why the hell would the consumer ever need to see thru walls?....
    Why the hell would the average consumer need to use a ...
    a car instead of a horse
    an ocean liner instead of a sailing ship
    an aircraft instead of an ocean liner
    a cell phone
    a computer
    a satellite navigation system
    a TV instead of radio
    a color TV instead of b/w
    a color TV with 500+ channels instead of 3,4 or 5 channels

    a :-)

    Humans (especially males), we always find a use for new stuff.

  • derekullo
    Wait a second ... Your saying Sony developed a camera or camera lens that is able to see through dark clothing? Assuming people aren't all wearing dark clothing, would you see a bunch of fuzzy nude people walking down the street?
  • dreadlokz
    cool! we want x-ray vision, we want boobs =D
  • upgrade_1977
    Nobody is home.... Lets go in...