Does a laser weapon capable of making people hear human speech across great distances sound real? Not really. Even so, that’s exactly what the Pentagon is working on.
The project, named The Laser Induced Plasma Effect, aims to give soldiers another non-lethal option to stop adversaries in their tracks. Along with delivering messages, the device can emit ear-piercing cracks like a flashbang. It can also “burn” human skin, causing tremendous pain by attacking nerve endings, without actually causing damage.
Simply going off the fact this device is under development by the Pentagon should suggest it is top secret. While it is, for the most part, a report in the Military Times gives some detail about how it works.
In essence, the device uses an extremely high-powered laser beam at a rapid pulse rate to create a ball of plasma. This creates a white sphere of light that can be seen, felt, and heard. The Pentagon hopes it will give soldiers a way to communicate with enemies without relying on typical means like loudspeakers.
As of now, the plasma is able to travel through glass but not solid barriers. However, the team hopes to solve this before making the tech available for field use.
Meanwhile, the device’s algorithms are being tweaked so it can transmit human voices. Teams will accomplish this by modulating the ball of plasma at different wavelengths to replicate spoken messages. As the project prepares to leave the lab, its first goal is to beam sound 100 meters.
Researchers hope to have the tech ready and in the hands of soldiers in just five years.
While the idea of transmitting sound via plasma is cool, some of the device’s other features are a bit more concerning. For one, its direct beam of energy can “burn” a target without causing physical damage. It is able to drill smaller than microscopic holes that trigger nerve signals without harming the skin. However, it goes without saying that this would be excruciatingly painful.
Meanwhile, the device’s final capability allows it to be used as a long-acting flashbang. Rather than a traditional explosive that causes one disorienting blast, the device can continuously emit 155-decibel pulses of sound. These can bring adversaries to their knees in seconds. The feature gives soldiers the advantage of confusion for an extended amount of time while they secure an area.
The Pentagon hopes to use the device in war, but also for crowd control. In theory, its lasers could come overhead from planes and helicopters or from land vehicles during protests. While it is highly unlikely such a device would be used against American citizens, the threat is always possible. It begs the question: Is the world ready for futuristic weapons of war?
Though only time will tell, they are coming…whether society is ready or not.