Soon, your phone could let you see through walls, superhero-style. Researchers at the University of Texas at Dallas have devised a way of harnessing the terahertz band of the electromagnetic spectrum with inexpensive microchips much like those already found in most consumer electronics, and a way of creating images from that data. The result? "You could put this chip and receiver on the back of a cellphone, turning it into a device carried in your pocket that can see through objects," Dr. Kenneth O says.
Scientists have long known about the terahertz band, the LA Times explains, but devices measuring it were prohibitively large and expensive. In addition to consumer uses like finding wall studs and snooping on Christmas presents, the device could also potentially detect tumors or sniff out counterfeit money. To allay privacy concerns—yes it could see through clothing—Dr. O is making the distance range less than four inches and designing it so that "you need to place the imaging device very close to the object you are looking at. We are talking about a distance of 10 centimeters, so it would be very difficult for someone to sneak up on you and ... you know."