Alongside flight, being able to see like Superman has to be one of the coolest abilities a person could have.
Well you’ll be pleased to hear then that X-Ray style vision could be widely available via portable imaging devices and smartphone apps in the next five years.
That’s the extraordinary promise of a senior researcher at IBM, Alberto Garcia, who’s working to make the technology reality.
Humans can only see a very narrow range of the electromagnetic spectrum through the naked eye.
Even devices that offer a broader range of sight, such as x-ray machines and infra-red scanners, are limited to specific wavelengths.
But Garcia has revealed that IBM is developing a revolutionary system that can provide vision across a range of wavelengths.
“We are building a portable hyperimaging platform that ‘sees’ across separate portions of the electromagnetic spectrum in one platform to potentially enable a host of practical and affordable devices and applications that are part of our everyday experiences,” Garcia wrote in an IBM Research blog.
“We anticipate that the ability to leverage information from two or more separate portions of the spectrum will tell us a lot more about objects in the world around us,” Garcia added.
One of the most interesting applications of the technology is the field of self-driving cars.
Advocates of automation argue that computers make much safer drivers than humans. Garcia’s prediction lends weight to that notion.
A combination of millimetre wave imaging, a camera and other electromagnetic sensors could help cars see through fog or rain, while detecting hazards such as black ice, according to the technologist.
“Cognitive computing technologies will reason about this data and recognize what might be a tipped over garbage can versus a deer crossing the road, or a pot hole that could result in a flat tire,” Garcia wrote.
It’s not the first time firms have attempted to combine different electromagnetic sensors to create a wider range of vision.
A couple of years ago, BAE Systems unveiled a new ‘Iron Man’ style combat helmet that allows soldiers to see the world with night vision and thermal imaging at the same time.
But what’s particularly interesting about IBM’s concept is the decision to introduce artificial intelligence into the mix.
Garcia explained: “When combined together with machine intelligence technologies, these new imaging devices will recognize and reason about invisible objects, properties or situations to inform us and warn us about what may be hiding out of sight.”
This is one technology that can’t come quickly enough.