Invisibility shields have always seemed like a fun yet unrealistic creation destined to remain fictional forever. But not only has somebody figured out how to make a real one, they’ve done it using brilliant low-tech functionality. There are no cameras, pixels, or electricity involved in this new invisibility technology — it’s really just a simple sheet you hold in front of you that seems to erase you from your surroundings. It’s the perfect way to act out all your secret spy fantasies, or just impress the heck out of everyone nearby.
A company called Invisibility Shield Co. is currently crowdfunding a real working invisibility shield on Kickstarter, and over 2,000 backers have already secured shields of their own. The company has produced 25 fully functional invisibility shields so far, and the campaign will allow them to scale up their production so the shields can be available to all. Pledge at least $65 and you can receive a small roughly 8-by-12-inch invisibility shield as a reward. The full-size version measures 37.4 inches tall by 25.59 inches wide and is available with pledges of $389 or more.
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.
Photos and videos of the shields in action are really quite remarkable. The people standing or crouching behind the shields are completely blurred out of the picture while a hazy view of the background remains. Sounds kind of like magic, right? But the shield makes use of a low-tech phenomenon that’s been around for a long time: lenticular lensing.
The shield’s creators explain: “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.
The fact that these actual working invisibility shields are so low-tech is what makes them fun. If you miss out on the Kickstarter campaign, keep an eye on the project’s update page for future retail availability.