CBS News correspondent Elizabeth Palmer was in London for the demonstration of the "T-5000" camera, originally developed for use in space to see through clouds of interstellar dust, or back on Earth to penetrate the ozone layer.
Once the scientists had perfected that and could see through the clouds, they thought, "why not clothes"?
And so, reports Palmer, they decided to develop the technology into a camera for security applications.
In the demonstration given Tuesday in London, a model tucked some mock-up explosives under his shirt. The camera clearly caught the object and portrayed it as a dark solid mass at the front of the man's body.
Many critics of x-ray security measures at airports have expressed concerns that passengers' privacy could be violated by screeners looking at naked people parading in front of a camera.
Palmer reports the image on the screen from the T-5000 was not that of a naked man at all, even though his clothing was transparent, but more like an infrared picture - with the explosive package clearly visible.
The camera's ability to screen people at a distance of up to 80 feet has drawn serious interest from security officials around the world, both civilian and military.
"A lot of security happens very close up. It could even be a physical
pat-down. It could be going through a metal detector gate. What we're excited about is something new," said Clive Beattie, CEO of ThruVision, the company that developed the T-5000.
The image comes up on a computer monitor in real time. It is formed not like x-rays are, by bombarding bodies with radiation, but by reading natural waves coming off the human body, so it's completely harmless.
The device comes in a package the size of a large trunk and takes just two people to move, so it is portable, reports Palmer.
An earlier version of the T-5000, a smaller indoor version, has already been sold. There is one in the financial center of London and one in another financial center in the Persian Gulf.
The new version is on the market already, and the technology is proven. The U.S. military has already expressed interest, and it is likely the device will appear in the United States soon.