Via Yoichi Ochiai / University of Tokyo
All tomorrow's prospective hoverboards are fun and everything, but then there's this: A new machine can move stuff through three-dimensional space using nothing but sound.
The device was developed by engineers at the University of Tokyo and the Nagoya Institute of Technology in Japan. It's based off four phased arrays of speakers that criss-cross "localised ultrasonic standing waves" at a given focal point, as the researchers explain. Using off-board controls, they can then move that focal point, and whatever is intersected there, horizontally and vertically. Think of it as a levitation boombox.
OK sure, it can't move very large things. The expanded polystyrene particles you're watching dance in mid-air are no larger than 2mm. This thing cannot move bricks, let alone bodies. At least not yet.
Even still, it's a big leap for levitation R&D, the sky-high dreams of which are still mostly grounded in technologies that make for wacky and shareable videos but that still haven't really left the lab. We may not all have a levitation boombox by the end of 2014, but who knows, this thing may in fact be moving us a few steps closer to the proverbial hoverboard. The best part? Owing to its ultrasonic speakers, the machine is virtually silent. It's cymatics on acid, and it's quietly hypnotic.
So it maybe won't fuck your face to the moon and back at the dubstep tent at Coachella. But as one Reddit user put it, "This would be the best way to do cocaine ever."