While it might seem like the stuff of science fiction, the cutting edge of technology and science has us on the cusp of some very exciting developments such as making Harry Potter's invisibility cloak a reality, making 3D holograms that can dance above your mobile device, making tiny blood-monitoring implants that can call your smartphone to warn you before a heart attack, and there are even attempts to make immortality a reality by transferring your brain into an avatar.
Mini version of Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak
Physicists have successfully created a small-scale invisibility cloak from a new material called metascreen. Unlike other attempts to make invisibility cloaks a reality, this one doesn’t try to bend light rays around an object. Instead, the researchers used ultra-thin strips of copper tape attached to a flexible polycarbonate film in a diagonal fishnet pattern; this “metascreen” enables a technique called “mantle cloaking.” They managed to “hide” an 18-centimeter-long (7-inch) cylindrical tube from view in microwave light.
“When the scattered fields from the cloak and the object interfere, they cancel each other out and the overall effect is transparency and invisibility at all angles of observation,” said Andrea Alu, a physicist at the University of Texas at Austin. “The advantages of the mantle cloaking over existing techniques are its conformability, ease of manufacturing and improved bandwidth.”
The researchers presented their study in the New Journal of Physics, writing, “Combined with the field penetration inside the cloak, these results pave the way to realizing not only 3D conformal camouflaging and invisibility, but also a practical scheme for non-invasive high-performance near-field sensors.”
Avatar robotic bodies to make you immortal
If Russian multi-millionaire Dmitry Itskov gets his way, immortality would be a reality by 2045. Itskov, the founder of Initiative 2045, wants to transfer the human consciousness into an avatar. But he is not interested in just one robotic body avatar that could be controlled by the human brain; instead he hopes to create telepresence robotic systems and networks in which the human consciousness could be uploaded to different avatars in different locations.
Scientists, technologists and entrepreneurs will meet at the second annual Global Future 2045 to discuss topics such as immortality by 2045, how immortal minds—even repair and replacement brain parts—are simply a matter of time. Potential applications would allow human augmentation enhancements to the physical body and the “significant extension of the lives of individuals whose biological bodies have exhausted their resources.” In a letter seeking United Nations’ support, GF2045 lists the eight key components for study, such as: “1. The construction of anthropomorphic avatar robots—artificial bodies. 2. The creation of telepresence robotic systems for long-distance control of avatars. 3. The development of brain–computer interfaces for direct mental control of an avatar.”
As you see in the image above, one 2045 scenario would be hologram-like avatars.
3D Hologram paves the way for Princess Leia to hover above your smartphone
Speaking of holograms . . . while it’s not quite a moving hologram of Princess Leia in Star Wars, researchers have built a 'hologram-lite' prototype for 3D holograms that may eventually lead to holograms that can “dance above a tablet, mobile phone or wrist watch,” reported the journal Nature. Researchers at Hewlett-Packard Laboratories in Palo Alto said the prototype can send light in 14 different directions for a smooth 3D effect without the 3D glasses, but they are working on another prototype that would send light in 64 different directions.
Physicist David Fattal said, “In principle you would be able to move your head around the display, rotate your head in any direction, and still see a 3D image, much like what you see in Star Wars, with the famous hologram of Princess Leia.” This prototype technology might start off being used for inexpensive 3D digital signage, but research colleague Raymond Beausoleil added, “Perhaps in the not so distant future, it could make its way to smartphones, smart watches and tablets.” If you are interested, they have produced this "Glasses-free 3D display" video to show off their work.
Tiny blood-monitoring implant calls smartphone before heart attack
You may have received hundreds of important calls, but one of the most unique and urgent calls a person might receive could come from a tiny blood-monitoring implant to alert you that you are about to have a heart attack. A team of Swiss scientists at Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) developed the world’s smallest medical implant, 14mm by 2mm, to measure critical chemicals in the blood, reported ExtremeTech. This “tiny lab on a chip” is implanted under the skin and uses Bluetooth to transmit the data to a mobile device. The wireless impant is powered by a skin patch, which is about the size of a credit card.
The implant tracks five substances in the blood, such as troponin that the heart produces hours before a heart attack. The researchers have tested the tiny implant on lab animals, but hope to begin testing on intensive care patients soon. They expect this implantable device to be ready for the commercial market in about four years.
Focusing on the potential of these developments is exciting, but focusing on the potential hacks to such devices would be scary. Let's hope that the researchers build-in security and privacy, such as in the embedded medical device, instead of trying to bolt it on afterwards.