Here’s a camera trick we’ve never seen on a smartphone: X-ray vision. Or at least something that looks very similar. This is a feature of the new OnePlus 8 Pro that uses the phone’s infrared sensors to see through a small subset of black materials.
If you have a OnePlus 8 Pro and would like to try it out for yourself, simply open the camera app, swipe to the color filter “Photochrom” and point to some black objects.
Fair warning: We have experimented with the filter ourselves and it is really very selective. It just keeps working very thin black plastic that is a little transparent in the right light. Think TV remote controls rather than the more stable plastic of a high-end DSLR. It is also a hit or miss with clothes.
We saw this trick over first Ben Geskin on Twitter (above), but a lot of people have demonstrated it since then. There’s a great video from Unbox therapy (below) shows the filter in action and looks through an Apple TV box, a switch remote control and even a thin black T-shirt.
But how does it work? We turned to OnePlus to see what they know (and to confirm whether it’s an intended function or not), but it seems that the process relies on the phone’s infrared sensors, which is a type of radiation collect that is invisible to the human eye.
Infrared is directly above visible light in the electromagnetic spectrum and is sometimes referred to as “heat radiation” because we feel its effects. The world is saturated with infrared, but because we don’t see it, we don’t usually think about it. For example, about half of the energy that reaches the earth from the sun arrives as infrared.
Special types of devices can detect infrared radiation, including night vision goggles and thermal imagers. This way you can see through certain materials because infrared penetrates them in a way that visible light (which all our eyes see) cannot. For example, firefighters use infrared cameras to see smoke in burning buildings.
Since high-end phones also contain infrared sensors, they can apparently be used for the same purpose. And not only OnePlus 8 Pro can do that. The TrueDepth camera of recent iPhones, which uses infrared light to scan your face for FaceID, can also be hijacked to create translucent images, as app developer Guilherme Rambo did shown (although it appears that you need a jailbroken iPhone to do this).
The question remains whether this causes problems for OnePlus, especially if the filter can be used to see through clothing with all the data protection problems associated with it. By doing Unbox therapy Video it seems like the filter can see through clothing, albeit under very limited conditions. A Reddit user has confirmed the same.
Depending on the severity of the problem, OnePlus may need to limit the functionality with a software update. After all, there was a similar scandal in the 1990s when Sony was forced to remember a camcorder that had a night vision feature that could be used to see through clothing.
Until then, enjoy watching your TV remote. If you have an 8 Pro and have experimented with the function, drop some pictures below. We’ll update this story when we hear from OnePlus.