American Science and Engineering (AS&E) just released a tiny new X-ray gun with some impressive capabilities. Roughly the size of a breadbox, the Mini Z Backscatter imaging system can find contraband in bags and see through car doors. It could also someday also be plugged into Oculus Rift for a full-on X-ray goggle experience.

The Z in Mini Z refers the company's mobile ZBV imaging system which is basically an X-ray-equipped cargo truck that can see into shipping containers. The new handheld version works the same way but on a much smaller scale. The tool allows authorities to scan objects on the fly—say, bags at a security checkpoint—or in hard-to-reach places—like under airplane seats. Since AS&E is the same company that makes giant body scanners at airports, it's uniquely suited to such a task.


The Mini Z can't see through everything. (It's also not a weapon.) It's great at peering through fabrics and sheets of metal, though brick walls remain a bit of a challenge. The imaging system is also tuned to pick up on organic materials, like drugs, currency, and explosives. What's maybe most impressive is not only how it shrunk X-ray tubes down to a handheld size but also its ability to shoot X-ray beams continuously and send the image to a nearby laptop or tablet. It also only uses about 10 watts of power, a trickle compared to the 3,000 watts the larger imaging systems use. It also costs $50,000, about half of what the larger systems cost.

So far, AS&E has been marketing the new Mini Z to the military, law enforcement, and border patrol operations. They're serious about the Oculus compatability, too. All it would take the military to have fully functional X-ray glasses is a little bit of software development. "It's one of the first things we thought of for this, " AS&E vice president Joe Reiss told Defense One. What's the hold up on the development piece, then? It seems like we should probably give our soldiers as many Superman-like capabilities as possible, right? [AS&E via Defense One]


Images via AS&E