Personal augmentations and technological aids have drastically increased the sensory capabilities of most transhumans. The following notes provide some details on what capabilities these sensory functions provide. The capabilities are typically the same whether it’s a biological sense or a technological sensor, though tech sensors can “turn off” certain wavelengths and sense only specific frequencies, whereas biological senses perceive the full spectrum with no ability to ﬁlter parts out.
Both technological sensors and enhanced biological senses come equipped with databases of scanned “signatures” that make it easier to identify whatever the user is sensing (in the case of bioware, these databases are stored and accessed via the character’s mesh inserts). For example, infrared sensors feature databases listing the heat signatures of different animals and items, making it easier to identify such things. In relevant situations, apply a +20 modiﬁer for identifying targets sensed this way.
Active Vs. Passive
An active scanner must actually emit its particular frequency and then measure the reﬂections; this means a similar sensor can detect it and home in on the emitting source. For example, a character with enhanced vision can literally see the terahertz radiation emitted by someone using an active terahertz sensor, much like someone with normal vision can see the light emitted by a ﬂashlight. A passive scanner simply scans frequencies that occur naturally—there is nothing to give the sensor away.
For Eclipse Phase rules purposes, the EM spectrum is broken down by wavelength and frequency into these categories: radio, microwave, terahertz, infrared, visible light, ultraviolet, X-rays, and gamma rays.
Radar (Radio/Microwave): Radar sensors work by actively emitting radio waves and microwaves and measuring them as they bounce off the target. Radar works best when detecting metallic objects, and is less effective (–20 modiﬁer) against biomorphs and small items. Resolution is not high, however, so it can see shapes but not colors or ﬁne details. It can be used to detect both speed and movement, can “see” through walls (up to a cumulative Armor + Durability of 100), and can detect cybernetic implants or concealed items. At close ranges (1-2 meters), it can detect pulse rate and respiration by measuring the motion of the chest cavity.
Terahertz: Terahertz sensors emit t-rays, measure the reﬂections, and compare them to a database of terahertz signatures that different items/materials have. The resolution is higher than radar, but with slightly less detail than normal vision. Similar to radar, terahertz sensors can see through walls and other materials, but to a lesser extent (up to a cumulative Armor + Durability of 50). T-rays occur naturally, but terahertz sensors normally require an emitter as they are absorbed by atmosphere (as well as water and metal). In space, however, an emitter would not be required. Likewise, passive terahertz scans within atmosphere have an effective range of 25 meters. T-rays do not penetrate skin, so are ineffective for locating implants. Infrared:Near-infrared wavelengths are used for night vision, providing resolution and detail equivalent to regular vision under low-light conditions. Mid-long infrared is excellent for detecting heat sources (unobstructed by fog or smoke) and temperature differences (as small as 0.1 degree C), and such thermal imaging will sense the dissipating heat traces left by warm sources on colder ones, allowing the user to see where someone was sitting, trace fading heat footprints, or see what buttons were pressed if they are quick enough. Infrared also detects the blood ﬂow in a biomorph’s face, which can be useful in judging emotional states (+20 modiﬁer to Kinesics Tests), and can spot subsurface implants. Some normally white surfaces are reﬂective (mirrored) in infrared, potentially allowing an infrared viewer to see around corners or behind themselves. On the other hand, some glass is opaque to infrared light. Infrared is also useful for determining chemical composition (enabling Chemistry Tests by sight alone). Infrared sensory input is passive. Lidar (Visible Light): Similar to radar, but with much higher resolution, lidar actively bounces light from the infrared through ultraviolet spectrum off a target and measures the backscatter, ﬂuorescence, and other properties. Lidar is very useful for detecting atmospheric chemical properties and weather. Like radar, it can be used to measure a target’s range and speed, or develop a three-dimensional image. One clever use of lidar is to precisely “map” the position of everything in a room (taking several turns of scanning) and then check that positioning later to see if anything has been moved. Ultraviolet: Some objects are ﬂ uorescent in ultraviolet light, including some animals, ﬂowers, insects, urine, and minerals (which show up much better in ultraviolet than regular light). Some plants and animals have patterns that can only be seen in ultraviolet. Likewise, chemical dyes that only show up under ultraviolet, or that make certain substances (like blood) ﬂuoresce under ultraviolet light, have various security purposes. Some glass is opaque at ultraviolet wavelengths. X-Ray/Gamma-Ray: Backscatter imaging systems using X- and gamma-ray frequencies produce high-resolution three-dimensional images and are very useful for detecting concealed weapons and implants. Such imagers are very good at penetrating walls and metal (up to a cumulative Armor + Durability of 200, at least at levels safe to transhumans). These sensors can, of course, also detect the presence of harmful radiation.
The transmission of vibrations through a medium, sound is broken down into infrasound (frequencies below standard human hearing), normal acoustic range, and ultrasound (frequencies above standard human hearing). Soundwaves do not propagate in vacuum. Ultrasound: Ultrasound sonar operates much like radar, bouncing sound waves off a target and measuring the returning echoes. Ultrasound imaging is similarly low-resolution, showing shapes and movement but no colors and few details unless measured closely (1-2 meters). Ultrasound is good for identifying how dense a material is, however, can detect denser materials hidden beneath less dense ones. Many medical devices utilize ultrasound, and ultrasound sensors can also detect gas leaks, frictional motor noises, and similar mechanical emissions. Ultrasound sensors are typically unaffected by noise clutter from standard acoustic frequencies. Infrasound: Infrasound travels much further than regular sound frequencies (hundreds of kilometers). Mechanical machinery, seismic disturbances, tornados, explosions, waterfalls, and certain weather phenomena create infrasound waves. Large animals such as elephants and whales use infrasound to communicate via the ground over large distances, though infrasound data transfer is too slow for complex communications.
Combined Sensor Systems
When used in combination, these sensor technologies can be potent. For example, the use lidar, thermal imaging, and radar can provide a three-dimensional map of a building and everyone and everything inside.