When my son was in preschool last year, he had to bring in an object corresponding to each letter of the alphabet for a weekly show & tell. When we got to “X” it was tricky to think of something but I had a pair of these “X-ray Spex” that someone gave me as a joke once. I had to modify them to fit his little head but – problem solved.


After he wore them to school I was looking at the package art sitting there on the counter and lamenting the product’s distinct lack of power to see through anything. You’d think a guy that looks like that fine, level-headed gentleman in the illustration would be peddling a more reputable product, right? Anyway, I wondered if I could make something like this that would allow an “X-ray” view of an image that the user could freely control in any direction.  So I made it.



This one was working surprisingly well early in the design process as opposed to other inventions that take me years to get right. Eventually I refined it and made versions that didn’t involve the concept of looking through any cartoon’s clothing. I gave this design to Structural Graphics and they hold a pending patent on it (in my name) at the moment. They’ve won a few awards with it already and I got a funny mention about it on the Paper Specs site a couple days ago.

I want to see how big I can make this thing and I also want to play around with different configurations. It’s a lot of fun for me to watch people try to figure it out. I guess my only regret is that I didn’t save it to use for my own Christmas card first. I’m really not very well thought out! I’m probably going to use it in the next couple of years anyway but I have to find something else clever to do with it first. By the way, it can do more than show “x-ray” views depending on artwork (i.e. focusing, magnifying, superimposing, colorizing, etc.)  but that’s just how it started so I kept “x-ray” in the name. You never know where inspiration is going to come from next.

Inventing new forms like this is by far my favorite part of paper engineering.

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Magic X-ray Viewer
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3 thoughts on “Magic X-ray Viewer

  • November 5, 2014 at 1:37 pm

    Have to say I’m with the folks at PaperSpecs… dying of curiosity! Well done, Rob.

  • November 6, 2014 at 12:44 am

    Thanks! I feel like this design has so many possibilities. It’s a bit of a magic trick to see it working. I think my son was equally impressed with wearing the pretend glasses though.


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