In recent years, there have been many attempts to devise some sort of invisibility tech. Now, UK-based startup Invisibility Shield Co. has come onto the scene with a new product to help you fulfill that dream of becoming invisible… kind of. This shield is a plastic shield designed by the British technology company Invisible Shield.
This invisible technology, built without any cameras, pixels or electricity, is actually just a simple screen that you hold in front of you and seem to cleanse you of your surroundings.
The shields offer high-resolution invisibility with no power source required, and the full size is large enough to hide multiple people. It’s portable, too, weighing less than nine pounds and packing down to a thickness of 2.3 inches.
Each shield uses a precision engineered lens array to direct much of the light reflected from the subject away from the observer, sending it sideways across the face of the shield to the left and right. Because the lenses in this array are vertically oriented, the vertically oriented strip of light reflected by the standing/crouching subject quickly becomes very diffuse when spread out horizontally on passing through the back of the shield.”
“In contrast, the light reflected from the background is much brighter and wider, so when it passes through the back of the shield, far more of it is refracted both across the shield and towards the observer. From the observer’s perspective, this background light is effectively smeared horizontally across the front face of the shield, over the area where the subject would ordinarily be seen.”
The shield is made up of lots of these vertical lenses so that light gets reflected internally between them instead of refracted out. That light is then diffused, reflected, and refracted around and out of the lens to interact with the lenses on either side. These long convex lenses running in parallel are made of an extruded and embossed polymer derived from recycled plastics. Achieving the invisibility effect all comes down to a very precise way of shaping and finishing the lenses. The shields work best against uniform backgrounds like foliage, grass, walls, sand, sky, and asphalt. They work even better when they have defined horizontal lines, which really help the invisibility effect pop.
“Each shield uses a precision engineered lens array to direct much of the light reflected from the subject away from the observer, sending it sideways across the face of the shield to the left and right,” the startup writes on their Kickstarter for the product.
Indeed”Because the lenses in this array are vertically oriented, the vertically oriented strip of light reflected by the standing/crouching subject quickly becomes very diffuse when spread out horizontally on passing through the back of the shield. “
The lenses in this case are very similar to the rows of horizontal bumps on those tilt cards, but instead of light entering and exiting the card at different angles from the front, here light comes from behind the shield.
As it enters the array, light hitting the sides is stretched out to cover the entire surface, making the image behind it blurry. Meanwhile, the more central light from behind the shield, where the ‘disappeared’ object is, is reflected back and out the sides.
The shield is particularly good at maintaining the integrity of horizontal lines, but because the lenses on the shield are vertical, it’s less effective at showing vertical lines behind a person – instead creating a kind of smudge of background light. You can see this in the image below, where tiles disappear as much as the person, while the dark edge of the step appears intact.
“You can think of it like a waveguide that guides the rays around the object,” University of Adelaide metamaterial physicist Alex Dinovitser told ScienceAlert. In physics, waveguides can be thought of as structures that direct electromagnetic waves into a specific direction. Most commonly these are used in electronics (your microwave has a waveguide, for example), but optical waveguides exist as well.
“In that case, the surface is designed to completely absorb the radiation or light. For light, the best material for this is VantaBlack. It is not the same as invisibility cloaking where the light goes through and around.”
In all, this shield is just one consumer-oriented product, while ‘invisibility research’ has been happening for the last few decades, resulting in things like an invisibility cloak for sound, for electromagnetic waves, and even for visible light (if only in one color).
To develop the shield, the London-based Invisibility Shield Co team tested different types of lenses with different profiles, angles, depths and separation distances. They also tested a range of different optical installation techniques to attach arrays to stronger scaffolding. The team says that their solution retains 98% of the optical properties of the arrays and completely eliminates the need for toxic resins that might normally be used in such a structure.
In terms of design, the materials used to make the shields are UV resistant, temperature resistant and very durable. Commonly used for external signs and marine applications. The bond between the layers has been tested and is actually stronger than the material itself. The shields are also 100% recyclable and come in cardboard boxes that are also 100% recyclable.
Shields work best against uniform backgrounds such as foliage, grass, rendered walls, sand, sky and asphalt. Backgrounds with distinct horizontal lines, both natural lines and the horizon itself, as well as human elements such as walls, rails or painted lines.
Invisible shields are designed to protect you from being seen and invisible to others, but they are not controlled by insurgents and are not designed to protect you from any attack.
We went through countless repetitions, tried many materials and experienced many failures. But along the way, we managed to create a reliable, scalable and efficient production process and create what we believe is the best invisible shield.
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