Seeing through walls isn’t just the shattered dream of every kid who ever coughed up a dollar for X-ray specs. It’s soon to be a very real superpower of US troops in war zones. The US Army plans to ship hand-held detection devices to soldiers in Afghanistan sometime this year; the devices use low-power ultra-wideband radio frequency to produce images of people or objects concealed behind walls or other obstacles. Utilizing a wireless connection, the devices can send images back to home base for further analysis.
The sensors work by measuring how radio waves move through and around various materials. They can not only see if there are people hiding inside buildings; they can also tell soldiers if walls have any hidden compartments. But even more importantly, they can help troops sniff out one of the biggest threats to their safety: concealed roadside bombs. There are, of course, some limitations to the technology, such as the type of material being examined. Just like those X-ray specs from your childhood, these hand-held scanners are pretty much useless against metal structures. But giving soldiers the ability to see inside concrete or wood buildings – and even several feet underground – can help keep troops safe as well as help with search and rescue efforts in the event of a disaster.