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'Harry Potter' comes to life: Invisibility cloak may be possible

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Now you see it, now you don't. Researchers discovered a way to hide objects from plain sight by using a technology that seems like it came straight out of the Harry Potter series.

Researchers at the University of Rochester discovered a way to create an invisibility cloak that keeps objects hidden even as the viewer moves several degrees away. Using four readily available complex lenses, the researchers created a cloak that is not tangible, but still magical.

The so-called Rochester Cloak is a device that mirrors equipment used by an optometrist. Using the lenses, researchers were able make a hand, a face and a ruler "invisible" while the image behind the objects still remained in view. The cloaking system maintains the invisible area even from multiple view angles, without distorting the background.

Previous cloaking devices have been developed before, but distorted backgrounds made it obvious that an object was being hidden. The new system was designed to allow light to pass through the center of the lenses, which creates a ring shaped cloaking area as seen through the lenses.

"This is the first device that we know of that can do three-dimensional, continuously multidirectional cloaking, which works for transmitting rays in the visible spectrum," says Joseph Choi, a PhD student at Rochester's Institute of Optics who is working with physics professor Joseph Howell at the university.

The lenses successfully make objects disappear, but the researchers don't believe a suit-sized, Happy Potter version could work. However, the lenses could be used in real life situations, like to help a surgeon to see through his hands to view what he is actually operating on, or allow drivers to see through blind spots.

The researchers released simple instructors on how to create the invisibility cloak for under $100. The patent for the Rochester Cloak is still pending.

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