The words "invisibility cloak" tends to summon images of fantastic adventure, magical espionage and otherworldly deception. The actual applications for optical camouflage, however, are far less out there. You can forget hiding your Romulan starship or hanging out in the lady wizards' dormitory, but that doesn't mean there aren't a number of viable uses for the technology.
For instance, pilots landing a plane could use this technology to make cockpit floors transparent. This would enable them to see the runway and the landing gear simply by glancing down at the floor (which would display the view from the outside of the fuselage) Similarly, drivers wouldn't have to deal with mirrors and blind spots. Instead, they could just "look through" the entire rear of the vehicle. The technology even boasts potential applications in the medical field, as surgeons could use optical camouflage to see through their hands and instruments for an unobstructed view of the underlying tissue.
Interestingly enough, one possible application of this technology actually revolves around making objects more visible. The concept is called mutual telexistence and essentially involves projecting a remote user's appearance onto a robot coated in retro-reflective material. Say a surgeon were operating on a patient via remote control robotic surgery. Mutual telexistence would provide the human doctors assisting the procedure with the perception that they're working with another human instead of a machine.
Right now, mutual telexistence is science fiction, but scientists continue to push the boundaries of the technology. For example, pervasive gaming is already becoming a reality. Pervasive gaming extends gaming experiences out into the real world, whether on city streets or in remote wilderness. Players with mobile displays move through the world while sensors capture information about their environment, including their location. This information delivers a gaming experience that changes according to where users are and what they are doing.
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More Great Links
- Adler, Robert. "Acoustic 'superlens' could mean finer ultrasound scans." New Scientist. January 2008. (Oct. 13, 2009)http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn13156-acoustic-superlens-could-mean-finer-ultrasound-scans.html
- Aliev, Ali E. et al. "Mirage effect from thermally modulated transparent carbon nanotube sheets." Nanotechnology 22. 2011. (Oct. 13, 2011) http://iopscience.iop.org/0957-4484/22/43/435704/pdf/0957-4484_22_43_435704.pdf
- Barras, Colin. "Gold rings create first true invisibility cloak." Oct. 2. 2007. (Oct. 13, 2009)http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn12722-gold-rings-create-first-true-invisibility-cloak.html
- BBC News. "Inventor plans 'invisible walls'." BBC News. June 14, 2004.http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/3791795.stm
- Bland, Eric. "Invisibility Cloak Closer Than Ever to Reality." Discovery News. Jan. 15, 2009. (Oct. 13, 2009)http://dsc.discovery.com/news/2009/01/15/invisibility-cloak.html
- Brown, Mark. "Watch: ‘Invisibility Cloak’ Uses Mirages to Make Objects Vanish." Wired. Oct. 4, 2011. (Oct. 13, 2011) http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2011/10/invisibility-cloak-mirage/
- Feiner, Steven K. "Augmented reality: A new way of seeing," Scientific American. April 2002.
- Inami, Masahiko et al. "Visuo-Haptic Display Using Head-Mounted Projector."http://projects.star.t.u-tokyo.ac.jp/projects/MEDIA/xv/oc.html
- Inami, Masahiko et al. "Optical Camouflage Using Retro-reflective Projection Technology," Proceedings of the Second IEEE and ACM International Symposium on Mixed and Augmented Reality (ISMAR 03).http://projects.star.t.u-tokyo.ac.jp/projects/MEDIA/xv/oc.html
- "'Invisibility Cloaks' Could Break Sound Barriers." Duke Engineering. Jan. 9, 2008. (Oct. 13, 2009)http://www.pratt.duke.edu/news/?id=1193
- McCarthy, Wil. "Being Invisible." Wired. November 2008. (Oct. 13, 2009)http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/11.08/pwr_invisible_pr.html
- Mullins, Justin. "Working invisibility cloak created at last." Oct. 19, 2006. (Oct. 13, 2009)http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn10334-working-invisibility-cloak-created-at-last.html
- Pendry, John. "Metamaterials." New Scientist. (Oct. 21,2011) http://www.newscientist.com/data/doc/article/dn19554/instant_expert_7_-_metamaterials.pdf
- Smolyaninov, Igor et al. "Electromagnetic cloaking in the visible frequency range." University of Maryland Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. Dec. 10, 2007. (Oct. 13, 2009) http://arxiv.org/ftp/arxiv/papers/0709/0709.2862.pdf
- Tachi, Susumu. "Telexistence and Retro-reflective Projection Technology (RPT)," Proceedings of the 5th Virtual Reality International Conference (VRIC2003), pp. 69/1-69/9.http://projects.star.t.u-tokyo.ac.jp/projects/MEDIA/xv/oc.html