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Could 'Harry Potter'-like invisibility cloaks really exist?

Scientists and researchers are actively working on ways to make cloaking devices reality. A new video from the American Chemical Society shows us how.

Anthony Domanico
CNET freelancer Anthony Domanico is passionate about all kinds of gadgets and apps. When not making words for the Internet, he can be found watching Star Wars or "Doctor Who" for like the zillionth time. His other car is a Tardis.
Anthony Domanico
2 min read

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One of the coolest things in the "Harry Potter" movies and books was the invisibility cloak Harry wore when he needed to not be seen. Sadly, such devices don't exist in the real world, at least not yet.

A new "Reactions" video out this week from the American Chemical Society explores how teams of scientists and researchers are making advances in cloaking technology so that one day cloaking devices might become a reality.

The video points out that in some ways, cloaking technology already exists. We have stealth aircraft that can disappear from radar imaging systems, and animals like cephalopods and chameleons that can camouflage themselves by mimicking light.

There are a few ways such cloaking techniques could work, the video explains. A team of researchers at Duke University is working on methods of making light avoid an object altogether using metamaterials, engineered materials that don't exist in nature but can be created and crafted to make things such as more powerful antennas and, perhaps, invisibility cloaks. The folks at Duke even came up with a way to 3D-print a sort of cloaking device, though not necessarily a practical one.

Another technique, being developed at the University of Rochester, uses four standard glass lenses to create a limited region of invisibility that renders a fixed object invisible. You can see that in action in this video from the university. While arguably not as game-changing as metamaterials are for the development of cloaking devices, this technology could be used to create things like medical gloves that let doctors see through their hands while performing surgery, or to help drivers better see objects in a car's blind spot.

And those are just some of the advances we've seen toward cloaking. Companies like BAE Systems are working on ways to make military vehicles invisible, scientists in Germany were able to hide a tiny bump in a layer of gold, and researchers at other institutions are using other types of metamaterials to make small-scale objects appear invisible to the human eye.

It's still early days for cloaking technologies, but the tech is advancing pretty rapidly. And if a team of humanoid robots might be able to beat a team of world-class humans in a game of soccer by 2050, maybe we can make those humans invisible in time for match day.

Watch the video above to learn more about advancements in cloaking technology, then get ready for a more "Harry Potter"-esque future when cloaking devices and other magical scientific advances become mainstream.