The human eye is only sensitive to visible light. Visible light is only a tiny fraction of the broad electromagnetic spectrum, which basically consists of radio waves, microwaves, infrared, visible, ultraviolet, x-rays, gamma rays and high-energy gamma rays. The electromagnetic spectrum covers a broad range of frequencies – starting from less powerful radio waves to the very powerful high-frequency gamma rays. So effectively, we can only see less than 1% of the electromagnetic spectrum. It’s high time someone developed a device that aids human vision – or superhero vision that enables human beings to process information that’s available in the vast portion of the electromagnetic spectrum. IBM – International Business Machines Corporation – is busy doing just that.

image source: IBM
image source: IBM

IBM working on Hyperimaging and Artificial Intelligence to give us superhero vision

Researchers at IBM are on a quest to build a new type of imaging technology that uses separate portions of the electromagnetic spectrum to make the invisible visible. So far, scientific advancements have resulted in instruments that emit and sense energy at different wavelengths. But these are expensive and generally target a specific application area – such as usage in medical imaging, scanning bags at airport etc. IBM is now working on a portable hyperimaging platform that can “see” across separate portions of the electromagnetic spectrum in one platform and enable a host of practical and affordable devices. The effort, according to the blog, is an initiative of the IBM Research Frontiers Institute – a consortium for collaborative research to leverage IBM’s research talent and cutting-edge infrastructure for world-changing innovations with global impact.

How will Superhero Vision change the world?

Once we are equipped with superhero vision, we will be able to “see” beyond visible light. This ability will reveal new insights that will help us understand the world around us better. With superhero vision, we will be able to “see through” objects and opaque environmental conditions anytime, anywhere. This has important applications even in our day-to-day lives. For example, view of the invisible physical phenomena can help drivers better judge traffic conditions. Self-driving cars will be able to “see” and assess the traffic conditions in much more informative ways. Superhero vision will also equip cars to detect dangerous hard-to-see road conditions such as black ice or objects lying ahead on the road, including its size and distance.

IBM wants to get the technology functional in just 5 years from now. The company’s theme for 2017 is “Making the invisible visible”. Looks like Superhero vision will cease to be science fiction very soon!