Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Could Harry Potter Help You Drive More Safely?

Keio University, Transparent Seat, See through seat, retroreflector

The movies may have long passed, but graduates from the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry are still pouring out each year and bringing their magic (er, technology) to the real world.

And by that I mean researchers at Keito University in Japan- they've been working on a way to bring an invisibility cloak to your car seats, to make them transparent when you're backing out of parking spots and into busy areas. With how important visibility is to safe driving, this is definitely one of the coolest ideas I've seen in some time! No more squinting at tiny dashboard displays as you can simply look behind you and get a full view of your blind spot. It's a great idea when you consider the number of people that still manage to back into other cars or light posts, despite having technology built into their car (such as backup sensors) to help prevent it from happening.

How does the camouflaging trick work? A small camera takes video footage of the space behind the vehicle. The stream is then projected onto the car seat itself, giving the driver the illusion of a completely transparent seat. If you really want to get technical, the seat itself is woven with thousands of tiny little beads known as retroreflectors, that pick up light and shine it in specific directions. Masahiko Inami, one of the developers of the technology, quotes author and inventor Sir Arthur C. Clarke for his inspiration behind the invisibility cloak: "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. I want to develop technology like magic that general people can use easily in the future.”

The “see-through Toyota Prius” is on display if you're willing to make the trek to the 2012 Digital Content Expo in Tokyo. Otherwise, see a video of the invisibility cloak in action below:

While there's no date set for when this will become available for your next car, expect to see innovations similar to this as the cost of technology and cameras decrease. 

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