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Researchers at UT Dallas developing X-ray vision technology for smartphones

Researchers at UT Dallas developing X-ray vision technology for smartphones
Researchers at UT Dallas developing X-ray vision technology for smartphones 01:51

DALLAS – Do you ever wish you had superpowers? The kind of superpowers that give you X-ray vision to see in and around anything? So do the researchers at University of Texas at Dallas, who are actively working to make it happen. 

"I don't know if you remember the movie 'Forrest Gump,' but there's a quote: 'Life is like a box of chocolates; you never know what you're going to get.' But now? You'll know," said Dr. Kenneth O, a professor of electrical engineering at UT Dallas and director of the Texas Analog Center of Excellence.

We can't all be Superman, born with X-ray vision, but the newest technology being developed at UT Dallas is meant to give powers to all.

"The superheroes like Superman – we all grew up with that," Dr. O said. "To be able to see through things, the X-ray vision was something always exciting and inspiring."

You've seen it in use in large-scale operations, like TSA's abilities at the airport, but the biggest feat for Dr. O has been making the tech small enough to be installed in a phone and accessible to all.

"You should be able to just scan normally how you'd scan and be able to easily capture the image," Dr. O said.

And they've done it, mostly. 

Right now, their prototype is a chip reading items behind a piece of cardboard. 

The only problem? It takes several hours due to the number of pixels they're working with. 

Dr. O says, with the right funding, this could be instantaneous and in a smartphone within a few years.

"The fundamental technology is there," he said. "I'd really like to make it so it's for everybody."

The idea is that one day soon, chip-enabled cellphones might be able to search the contents of envelopes, packages, or have medical uses like checking hydration levels in the body. Dr. O even demonstrated the ability to search tainted candy bars.

"It's providing a useful function to be able to do something that's needed that we normally cannot do," he said.

With privacy in mind, it's designed to be used only at close range, about an inch from an object, so that, for example, a thief can't scan someone's bag from afar. 

However, they plan to make more variations in the future.

But for now, who knows? Maybe soon you won't need to be Superman to see through things. All you'll need is a smartphone.

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