He strolled through the Great Wall of China, levitated over the Grand Canyon and vanished the Status of Liberty, but illusionist David Copperfield never pulled off a trick quite like this: a hydrogen-powered Mercedes car rendered all but invisible in multiple locations using a camera and a cloak of colored lights.
How’d they do it? With a whole bunch of LEDs draped over the vehicle to cover everything but the wheels, and a Canon 5D Mark II camera used to film the surroundings. Say you’re looking at the vehicle from one side — the camera transmits an image of the other to the LEDs, which then project a dynamic image on your side of the car, making it look as if you can see right through the vehicle.
The result isn’t perfect — you can still see the wheels, and the LED image is a little grainy, making it clear there’s something there, but the net effect is probably a heartfelt “whoa” if you happen to catch sight of this thing zipping by.
You’ve probably bumped into this technology before. Remember Ben Heck’s Portal t-shirt? And let’s not forget the whole carbon nanotubes simulating a heat mirage effect around objects that surfaced late last year.
Mercedes says it’s taking its tech global to highlight its hydrogen-based F-CELL technology, which it claims produces “zero emissions.” Because of course they are — you didn’t think this was really their pitch for an invisible car, did you? Not that we wouldn’t take a car with embedded LEDs that’d let us engage “cloak mode” at will, or fiddle the colors if we’re feeling noncommittal about “banana,” but want to give it a go for a day.