Researchers at University of Rochester have long been working to make invisibility cloaks a reality, and their latest attempt takes things digital using an iPad Mini and a standard camera.
It’s all about illusion and trickery, but this one is pretty impressive. The iPad Mini’s video camera picks up a static background but when a hand passes in front of the camera it is hidden. Furthermore, viewers can move around the screen and the trick still works at different angles.
Here’s how it works. A camera scans the background image from a range of angles and processes each frame to make a composite image. A lenticular lens array is placed over the iPad and mounted in place. Normally viewers would see a hand pass in front of the camera but the display processes the composite image and calculates what those light beams look like without the foreign object on screen and displays the original image instead.
It’s not like taking a picture of the object in front of you, holding your iPad up, and passing your hand in front of the camera to claim it’s an invisibility cloak. The camera in this case is still live so when you shift your point of view the position of the objects changes like you would expect in real life.
The team had performed experiments in invisibility before. Their previous contraption used a set of four lenses to create an invisibility effect that’s pretty nifty, but only works when it’s looked at straight down the line of lenses.
This latest iteration uses digital technology to perform a similar function and allows for a greater array of angles.
Of course there are limitations. It’s no Harry Potter cloaking device, and if James Bond were trying to hide from Dr. No it would have to be a pretty specific set up against a very static background. But this is definitely a step toward those once thought fictional futures.