As if making things invisible wasn't cool enough, a team of engineering students at China's Southeast University in Nanjing have come up with a cloaking design that hides something and creates an illusion in its place. They classify it as "illusion media," and it's able to make whatever the material is covering appear to be something else — or several other things — by scattering electric fields. A person, for instance, could be replaced with a shrub or even several bushes.
"The illusion media make an enclosed object appear like another object or multiple virtual objects," team member Tie Jun Cui told PhysOrg. "Hence it can be applied to confuse the detectors or the viewers, and the detectors or the viewers can't perceive the real object.
The real kicker, though, is that the cloaking field isn't some far-flung concept. Your usual cloaking concept relies on the use of multiple layers of metamaterials, which are often theoretically defined, hard to produce and require a lot of testing to get right. "Our purpose is to make the illusion media be fairly realizable," Cui added, and as such the team is limiting its research to the use of artificial metamaterials that can actually be created.
Of course, that doesn't mean you'll see this roll out tomorrow — or even in the next few years — so no need to go around poking things and wondering if they're real.