It’s fascinating to know what technology and its creators are capable of developing. The latest innovation in screen design comes from Tokyo, where University of Tokyo researchers Yoichi Ochiai, Alexis Oyama and Keisuke Toyoshima have developed what is arguably the world’s thinnest screen, made simply from a soap bubble.
Projecting an image onto soap isn’t as easy as it may sound. Typically light passes through a soap bubble in its unaltered form. To work around this problem, the researchers subjected the bubble’s membrane to ultrasonic sound waves, played through speakers. Sonic waves break up the surface tension, creating a texture to the bubble that becomes opaque, while reflecting enough light to project a vivid image for viewers.
To keep the bubble from popping, a colloidal mix made up of sugar, glycerin, soap, surfactant, water, and milk, enables the surface tension to be strong yet malleable. You can pass your fingers through the bubble without popping the mixture.
Because the bubble’s texture can be altered depending on the frequency of the waves, researchers can change the surface texture to be rough or smooth at will. For example, an image of a ball projected onto the bubble could be customized with the guise of a rough or smooth ball.
Changing the frequency (the type of wave) emitted by the speakers will also alter the reflective property of the screen, which is a characteristic that cannot be changed at will on modern day screens. By affecting the intensity of the reflection, the transparency of the projected image then can be changed at will, similar to what you’d see when changing the transparency of an image in Photoshop.
A second feature to a single-screen projection is the ability for the researchers to project moving images. For example, the video below will exemplify an image of Earth rotating on its axis.
By adding multiple screens however, a three dimensional image can be projected by modifying the frequency of each screen, which affects the transparency of each bubble. A single projector will then transmit alternate images onto each screen, which together creates a holographic effect.
While the goal of this project, according to the researchers, is to recreate the visual mimicry of materials, including grass and stone, at the spur of the moment, this patent-pending project is also an experiment that accomplishes what modern day screens cannot. There is a malleability and customization to the screen that is unparalleled when comparing it to traditional screens.
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