The genres of fantasy and science fiction, though both speculative, don't always appeal to similar audiences. Science fiction deals in knowledge and understanding: what is possible, what is rational. By contrast, fantasy typically deals in magic, wonder and imagination. But one theme that seems to rivet dreamers of science and fantasy alike is the power of invisibility.

How cool would it be to be able to turn things invisible? Whether you dream of invisibility cloaks (a la Harry Potter) or Klingon cloaking devices (a la Star Trek), the aspiration to master invisibility is one that we all muse about. It's also an ability, though seemingly magical, that science is close to realizing

The latest breakthrough in invisibility technology comes out of the University of Rochester, where the most sophisticated (and convincing) cloaking device to date has been developed, reports Time.

Previous cloaking devices have worked by distorting an object's background, but this strategy tends to make it apparent that an object is being cloaked. The new device, by comparison, uses four lenses to keep an object hidden even as the viewer moves up to several degrees away.

“This is the first device that we know of that can do three-dimensional, continuously multidirectional cloaking, which works for transmitting rays in the visible spectrum,” said Joseph Choi, a PhD student at Rochester’s Institute of Optics.

In other words, the University of Rochester technology is a cloaking system that doesn't distort and maintains the cloaked area across multiple viewing angles. Researchers admit that the device is not exactly wearable, so it won't likely be applicable to a Harry Potter-esque suit-sized version. But it can conceal objects without distortion, meaning Klingon-like cloaking devices aren't out of the question.

Military uses aside, the technology could have a variety of everyday practical uses too, such as in the medical industry. A surgeon could potentially “look through his hands to what he is actually operating on,” for instance. The lenses could even be applied to allow drivers to see through blind spots on their vehicles.

Check out the following video for a breakdown of how this amazing technology works:

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Bryan Nelson ( @@brynelson ) writes about everything from environmental problems here on Earth to big questions in space.

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