They are the ultimate form of camouflage. Put one on, and you disappear from view. One saved Harry Potter from many tight scrapes, and in the film Die Another Day the technology provided James Bond with the ultimate escape vehicle, an invisible car.
But now Japanese scientists have turned fantasy into reality by creating an invisibility cloak that makes it possible to see straight through its wearer. He, or she, simply vanishes from view. The garment is the work of Japanese inventor Susumu Tachi, a professor of computer science and physics at the University of Tokyo. ‘It’s a kind of augmented reality,’ he said of his device.
In reality, the ‘optical camouflage‘ cloak is anything but invisible. It is made up of ‘retro-reflective material’ coated with tiny light-reflective beads that cover its entire length. The cloak is also fitted with cameras that project what is at the back of the wearer on to the front, and vice versa. The effect is to make the wearer blend with his background.
The device is attracting serious attention from military experts keen to exploit a technology that could help troops move into action without being spotted.Nor does the potential end there, says Tachi’s colleague, Naoki Kawakami. ‘It could be used to help pilots see through the floor of the cockpit at a runway below, or for drivers trying to see through a fender to park a car.’