Natalia Lusinski
Updated May 22, 2016 @ 10:39 am
Credit: Warner Brothers Pictures

Sometimes, don’t you wish you could become invisible, that Harry Potter’s cloak of invisibility was a real thing? Maybe it’s not yet, but it could be soon, potentially, thanks to U.S. researchers who just invented a digital cloaking device. What?!

Yep, something that seems like it’s in the world of sci-fi and make-believe could someday be real.

Before we get to the new invention, a little history: the precursor to this discovery was developed in 2014 and called the “Rochester Cloak.” It consisted of an optical device that used four lenses in a row to bend the light, according to The Independent. So, anything placed right behind it would be hidden. Pretty amazing. However, if you were looking at the device or object, aka moved and looked from another angle, it didn’t work.

But the good news? The same researchers at the University of Rochester in New York, PhD student Joseph S. Choi and his advisor, Professor of Physics John C. Howell, have now created a digital version. It’s called the “Rochester Digital Cloak” (patent pending) and, this time around, it’s made from an iPad, a camera, and a special lenticular lens, according to Optica.

First, the background is filmed. Then, it’s processed to be seen on the iPad via the lens. Ordinarily, a viewer could determine the background versus a video of it played on a screen in front—they’d just change their perspective and point of view. But, not in this case.

“This system calculates the direction and position of the light rays so they can be properly displayed as if they were unobstructed,” the researchers explained in a video. “As a result, the area behind the display is effectively cloaked. As the viewpoint shifts, the image on the display changes accordingly, keeping it aligned with the background.”

Crazy, right?!

In their demo, the researchers achieved 51 possible viewing angles and a spatial resolution of 20 pixels per inch. Plus, it works for a 29-degree field of view.

While the resolution of the image still needs perfecting — which would mean more viewing angles and a better spatial resolution — and the image behind the screen is limited and cannot move or else it has to be filmed all over again, it’s good to know that invisibility cloaking could be an actual thing someday.

The key is creating a cloak that hides an object from all viewing angles, not just one, as well as one that works for all colors of light, according to Yahoo! Finance. So, with every viewing angle, the background, too, has to change.

“Many other approaches to invisibility cloaking try to guide light around an object,” said Howell. “We collect light rays at one position and display them at another position, making everything in between invisible.”

A-maz-ing. But we can’t order an invisibility cloak just yet. In the future, the invisibility device could be amended to hide larger objects. And, the researchers hope to make a real-time version of the cloak — instead of the scanning camera, they’d use detectors.

However, the researchers are not necessarily promoting that we all wear Cloaks of Invisibility someday either.

An example of this would be them creating a special glove that would make a surgeon’s hand invisible so that medical personnel could better see what’s being operated on. In a similar idea, a cloaking device could be put over a blind spot in the car, and then the driver could see through that area of the car that they couldn’t before.

Okay, did I mention how impressive this is, even if it is a while away yet? I don’t think I’m alone in saying it’ll be worth the wait.

You can watch more about the digital cloak here: