Watch! Small objects levitate, dance on sound waves you can’t hear

Researchers in Japan are fighting gravity with sound. In the video above, you can watch as a series of small, lightweight objects float and dance in thin air -- manipulated by invisible ultrasound waves.

The sound waves are not just invisible, but also silent to our human ears.

“The human ear can detect up to 20 kHz frequency, but we use 40 kHz transducers that are out of the range that humans can detect,” said Yoichi Ochiai, a PhD student at the University of Tokyo who put the video together. “So we can’t hear the sound from our speakers.”

But even if you can’t hear the waves, or see them, you can feel them. According to Ochiai, if you stuck your hand in the middle of the glass-square where the objects are manipulated, you would notice what feels like a wind blowing.


Scientists have known that standing ultrasound waves can cause an object to levitate since 1975, but the video above shows that these waves can also be used to move particles and small objects in three dimensions.

Ochiai said this helps solve a problem he came across in his research on real world oriented computer graphics.

“This prototype is aimed at handling the spatial position of objects in the real world, like we treat digital data on the computer,” he said. “We cna manipulate objects easily in the digital world, however we can’t in the real world because of gravity”

Eventually this technology could have applications in medicine, engineering, manufacturing, and graphics, said Ochiai. And in the meantime, it makes for a magical-looking video.


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