You've probably seen the comic books with
ads for X-Ray glasses or X-Ray Specs that promise to give the wearer amazing
powers to see through solid objects like walls, and clothing ... girls
clothing, naturally, since adolescent boys are the targeted audience. If you
happened to be one of those who sent off for a pair with hard earned money
saved from an allowance or paper route you were, no doubt, disappointed. Then
again admit it, you've probably always been curious to know how they work,
Sorry to disappoint but, X-Ray Specs won't
help you see through anything solid, let alone clothing. From the beginning the
"glasses" have been a novelty product intended ONLY to create the illusion of
seeing through solid objects. To see through walls and other things, you'll
need something far more substantial and expensive. Something like, say, an
Not surprisingly, the idea for X-Ray
Specs is based on the 1895 discovery by William Röntgen of x-rays - a form of
invisible, high frequency, electromagnetic radiation. To the average person,
the invisible rays seemed mysterious and magical. But since they were widely
used in medical applications, scientists and medical professionals possessed a
good understanding. Meanwhile, the general public's ongoing cluelessness was
compounded by misinformation propagated by popular movies and comic book
superheroes like Superman, whose x-ray vision allowed him to see through just
X-Ray Specs were
introduced as a gag item in the 1940s by the S.S. Adams Co., established in
1906 as the Cachoo Sneezing Powder Company and currently the "world's largest
manufacturer of pranks and magic tricks." Along the way, S.S. Adams became
known as the Ford (as in Henry Ford) of the practical joke industry for its
innovation and as purveyors of kitsch and schlock exemplified by novelty
products like joy buzzers and snake jam - an innocent-looking jar labeled
raspberry jam from which a 30-inch coiled, fake snake abruptly emerged when
You can still buy the glasses. They
usually consist of 1950s-style, heavy plastic frames of the type favored by
Superman's Clark Kent. The lenses are of layered cardboard bearing a
"mesmerizing" painted design, most often a spiral, though some feature
holograms and other designs. In the center of each lens is a
quarter-inch hole through which the wearer looks. Sandwiched between the
cardboard layers, and glued in place over the viewing hole is a feather.
It's the feather through which the viewer
looks that creates the illusion. The closeness of the feather's fine vanes and
barbs distorts the view of whatever is seen through the viewing holes. The
wearer sees two slightly offset images that outline a darker, solid-appearing
image where the two images overlap.
In recent years, technological advances
have led to the development of personal viewing devices that have advanced the
concept of XRay vision from the realm of amusement to reality.
Since 2006 Urban City Apparel of
Louisville KY has been selling "XRay Vision Infrared Sun Glasses" featuring
"military grade filters and injected chemicals" that allow the wearer to see
into the infrared spectrum, and to even see through certain types of clothing...
provided the Sun is bright enough. Several styles with list prices up to $3,000
are available and can be purchased for prices ranging from $75 to $500.
Like the original XRay Specs, these sun
glasses are marketed as novelty items, albeit with a slightly different
disclaimer: "Strictly sold as a novelty item for outdoor use only - No
batteries required! Just add to high powered Sun lighting to unleash the
Actual XRay glasses that are available
for purchase in the here and now were the subject of a story by my fellow
Inventor Spot blogger John P. Barker at "I Can See Your Boobs; X-Ray Glasses Become a Reality".
These wonder XRay Glasses are an
outgrowth of consumer product research by Sony, and is related to technologies used by those oh so friendly and helpful TSA agents at an airport near you. The device includes a palm-sized DVD recorder, is powered by a small power source, and produces a range of infrared light. Reflected imagery is viewable (and
recordable) by the person wearing the glasses. Sounds pretty harmless, right? Perhaps, until you consider that many bathing suits are made of "breathable" cotton easily penetrated by UV rays to allow the wearer to achieve a more natural, all-over tan. Cool, scary, and at around $2,400 a pop, costly.
Like almost all consumer product evolution, however, increased consumer demand is generally accompanied by increased sales and, over time, lower prices. Consequently, the cost is likely to come down dramatically over the course of the next few years.
And while new and more costly, whiz-bang
products like XRay Vision Infrared Sun Glasses and XRay Glasses represent a quantum leap over what was once little more than a gimmick, they have generated renewed interest in the original gag product.
Answers.com, Genii Magazine/Magicpedia, Inspired Geek.com, Made How.com, My Eyes Pop.com, Wikipedia.org, Wizzley.com