Korean researchers develop invisibility cloak
Image: John Cena

The invisibility cloak is one of the coolest magical implements in “Harry Potter.” But cloaking devices have popped up in science fiction for decades, and in folklore for thousands of years.

The advantages of invisibility are very real. So, it’s no surprise that scientists have tried to make the sci-fi tech a reality for a long time. Now, artificial intelligence (AI) is playing a significant role in making real-life invisibility cloaks, as Futurism reports.

In “Harry Potter,” invisibility cloaks come from the hair of a Demiguise, a magical creature whose coat can achieve invisibility. Powerful Bedazzling Hexes or Disillusionment Charms in the wizarding world can also give a “normal” cloak the power of invisibility. But the way invisibility cloaks might come to fruition in the real world is just as fantastical.


Metamaterial and Artificial Atoms

The key to developing an invisibility cloak lies in metamaterials: synthetic substances engineered to exhibit properties not found in nature. In turn, artificial atoms are the key to metamaterials. Basically, artificial atoms control the polarization and spin of light, allowing for new optical properties.

Related: Artificial intelligence’s impact on the manufacturing market

The problem in developing artificial atoms for use in metamaterials is that there’s a lot of trial and error involved. The process is challenging for humans due to the sheer number of simulations involved. This is where AI comes in.

AI to the Rescue

A South Korean research group, led by Professor Junsuk Rho of the Pohang University of Science and Technology (POSTECH), has developed an AI that can design photonic structures arbitrarily and choose materials using deep learning. The team published their findings in several journals, including Applied Materials and Interfaces, Nanophotonics, Microsystems & Nanoengineering, and Optics Express.

The AI “trains” with an exhaustive amount of data so that it can learn about various metamaterials and how they work with photonic structures and optical properties. While this process can take humans years, the AI can design a metamaterial with ideal optical properties “promptly and efficiently.”

The process also allows for an additional level of freedom by categorizing the materials and using them as a design factor. Basically, the AI can conduct many more simulations than a human being can. It can also learn from the work it has already done. Using this technology, a promising metamaterial design could pop up that could potentially lead researchers to create something like an invisibility cloak.

So, when do Invisibility Cloaks Come Out?

Currently, the technology is still very much in the design phase. Also, as with most innovations in the field, AI can’t do everything, as Professor Rho detailed in a press release. “Our research was successful in bringing it to a higher degree of freedom of the design, but the new design still requires users to input certain problem settings in the beginning. It sometimes produced wrong designs and therefore make it impossible to produce desired metamaterials.”

But Rho was still optimistic about eventually producing a usable metamaterial. “I’d like to take our findings a step further by developing a complete design method of metamaterials utilizing AI. Also, I’d like to make innovative and practical metamaterials by training AI with reviews of the design constructed in consideration of final products.”

Overall, there’s still a lot of work to do. But Rho and his colleagues’ work has brought Muggles a little closer to cruising around completely incognito.

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