X-Ray Specs!

See the bones in your hand, see through clothes!

Well, see through clothes, anyway.

Peering into the tea-leaves today, I see an advertisement:

Victoria’s Stealth

Block unwanted attention with our new close-weave
3mm and 1.5mm dielectric mesh technology.

Combined with X-ray absorbing polymers,
He’ll only see what you want him to see!


It was towards the end of the first decade of the twenty-first century that the old induction-based ‘metal detectors’ were replaced at airports by new ‘millimetre wave’ radar and X-ray backscatter devices. These were initially large, fixed booths that gave an image of the prospective traveller, minus clothing. Concealed weapons — even ceramic ones — and chemicals were easily visible though the faces were deliberately blurred.

Even in those early days though, there was a ‘fine grain’ mode available — one carefully not appearing in the blurry shots used to ‘sell’ the legitimacy of using the equipment to the public. As one sales rep quietly put it, they could tell what brand of tampon a woman was using. That “fine-grain”. Improved computer processing of the microwave images meant the resolution was down to half a wavelength — call it 1.5 millimetres — or even less using phased arrays.

Earlier systems much less sophisticated
(Photo: RetroToys.com)

While the very low power X-ray devices would always be, by their very nature, fixed devices, portable microwave equipment was developed very early in the piece, with effective ranges of 10 to 30 metres. Multiple transmitters and improved processors soon meant that the standard surveillance cameras in secure areas such as car-parks were soon upgraded, to see beneath clothing, at much greater ranges.

Soon, nude shots of celebrities were on the web, the original quite low resolution monochrome originals digitally enhanced and colourised. Not as good as a high-definition photograph but quite good enough for the 4096 x 2048 pixel arrays that were standard on digital monitors by 2025. Legal challenges to the safety of the equipment led to it not being used widely in the US. But, elsewhere, the resolutions got better and the images sharper.

Enterprising entrepreneurs soon started making undergarments — and then overgarments — that reflected or absorbed microwave emissions. Impregnation of clothing with Infra-Red absorbent chemicals — soon available as aerosols — were used to frustrate the Thermal Imagers that the paparazzi used in their microbots.

It was only around 2040 that the wearing of non-stealth underwear came into use as a signal by the young (and not-so-young) that they were willing and available.


Futurist Zoe Brain really is a rocket scientist! She shares her visions of our collective near-future in this space every second Wednesday…

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