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'Invisible' cars soon to hit the road

An exterior video camera brings the outside inside

We've seen this kind of technological trompe l'oeil before in various unlikely settings, including in tanks on a battlefield, but this is the first invisibility technique that's likely to affect our everyday lives.

Researchers from Tokyo University have applied the camera-trickery method to a normal car to create the illusion for the driver of a see-through car [Subscription link]. The obvious explanation for this is to eliminate driver blind-spots by providing a safer all-around view, but we suspect the team had a lot of fun working on it.

Clearly appealing

In practice, the idea is quite simple: put a video camera on the outside of the car and show the pictures on the adjacent interior surface - although the execution requires a little extra hardware.

In fact, the current prototype necessitates a headset to be worn by the driver for calculating where he is looking and projecting the appropriate image onto a cloth screen moulded to the car interior.

Although there's still plenty of work to do before the technique is perfected, it's clearly an idea with myriad applications. The team suggests it could be used in helicopters to create a 'transparent' floor, though we're not totally sure how that would do anything other than freak out the passengers.