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Is this a real-life invisibility cloak?

Posting in Design

Over the past few years there have been tantalizing reports that scientific progress was on the cusp of creating a real life invisibility cloak. But upon a closer reading, these experimental technologies didn't amount to much beyond reminding us just how far off we are from the fictional universe of Harry Potter.

For instance, a team of researchers at the University of California announced last year that they had developed a metamaterial fully capable of hiding objects from the naked eye. The breakthrough does, though, lose much of its luster considering that they'd still have to figure out a way to scale up the technology to mask objects beyond the size of a red blood cell. Then there was news just last month out of Duke University about a diamond-shaped design that bent light around an object so perfectly, it even concealed shadows. Too bad the illusion only worked when looking straight and in one direction.

Now, a little-known Canadian defense firm called HyperStealth Corp claims to be closing in on a breakthrough technology that should soon lead to a true, in every sense of the term, invisibility cloak. And to allay skeptics, company CEO Guy Cramer told CNN in an interview that they've even garnered strong interest from the U.S. military after demonstrating to officials how the fabric's light-bending properties prevent the wearer from being detected entirely.

Development of the material codenamed "Quantum Stealth" has been kept shrouded in secrecy. The project's web site reveals very few details about how the technology actually works, except that it's lightweight, inexpensive and reduces 95 percent of an object's shadow. The page also includes a few mock-up photos that illustrate what the material's remarkable camouflaging effect would look like, along with an explanation from Cramer as to why they've decided to at least go public with their design.

According to the site, Cramer started to receive a lot of attention from the media after giving a talk at a military trade show about the company's development of an inexpensive and lightweight "light-bending material." And "after enough press had been written on the subject, the U.S. Military Command finally asked to see the real material to verify that it worked," he said. "Those meetings took place with very limited 'Need to Know' access and the technology is now moving forward."

If substantiated, the implications are tremendous. Snipers would be able to position themselves covertly with very little risk of being spotted, while troops could use the cloak to elude capture or to carry out surprise raids against enemies. On a more ambitious front, the invisibility-inducing material may even someday enable aircraft and ships to take the notion of "stealth" to a whole new level.

However, Cramer says that, once available, it's likely that only the military will have access to the Quantum Stealth's special effects, at which point, it'll be hard to hide the collective excitement.

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— By on December 10, 2012, 8:32 PM PST

Tuan Nguyen

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Tuan C. Nguyen is a freelance science journalist based in New York City. He has written for the U.S. News and World Report, Fox News, MSNBC, ABC News, AOL, Yahoo! News and LiveScience. Formerly, he was reporter and producer for the technology section of ABCNews.com. He holds degrees from the University of California Los Angeles and the City University of New York's Graduate School of Journalism. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure