OK, first, a caveat: We’re not quite up to Harry Potter-level shenanigans yet. The “cloak,” created by a team at Duke University led by graduate student Nathan Landry, isn’t a cloak in the swirly-cloth sense, but rather a diamond-shaped box made out of something called metamaterial. It can only shield a 3×0.4″ cylinder from being seen from a specific direction. And the cylinder can only be shielded from microwave radiation, not the visible light spectrum.
Still, this is the first time that any invisibility cloak of any description has been successfully brought into the realm of reality. They’ve been around since 2006, but previous models always reflected some of the incident light instead of channeling 100 percent of it around the object, which is what makes it truly invisible.
“We built the cloak, and it worked,” said Landry. “It split light into two waves which traveled around an object in the center and re-emerged as the single wave with minimal loss due to reflections.”
In terms of practical usage, as the technology becomes more advanced we’re probably looking more at defense applications (hiding vehicles à la The Avengers‘ Helicarrier, only better, for example) and an improvement in radar technology. So there’ll be no sneaking into the kitchens quite yet. Emphasis on the yet.
Except I’ll totally use mine to sneak into movies and avoid people I don’t like. C’mon, don’t act like you haven’t thought about what you’d do with an invisibility cloak, too.