It's not every day the future arrives early. Robot cars and personal jetpacks might still some time off, but at least you can head over to the Kickstarter crowdfunding site right now and place an order for your very own invisibility shield.

The Invisibility Shield 2.0 might not bestow true invisibility, but according to its makers it's a convincing gimmick. Someone viewing it from directly in front will get the illusion of seeing right through it no matter what the distance, though viewers may still see a faint outline and blurring.

Here's the science bit: Using what's known as lenticular lensing, the shield is engineered so that light from the background (whether it's the ocean, a concrete carpark, or a brick wall) is bent towards the viewer. The light from an object immediately behind the shield's center, on the other hand, refracts away from the viewer.

Invisibility shield workings
How the shield works. (Invisibility Shield Co)

Effectively, the light cast from the background masks any light from right behind the shield, as long as the viewer is in the right spot. It works best with uniform backgrounds and in low light or overcast conditions, the inventors say, so it's applications are far from limitless.

It's also worth noting that the invisibility effect works both ways. If you're hiding behind the shield and want to see something on the other side, you need to poke your head over the top or around the side, potentially giving away your location.

Invisibility Shield White
(Invisibility Shield Co)

This still leaves plenty of creative uses for such an object. According to New Atlas, owners of the first-gen shield have been using it to perform magic tricks and pranks, to remain unseen when playing paintball, and – perhaps most useful of all – to stay undetected while observing wildlife.

A step up from the original Invisibility Shield, which launched on Kickstarter back in March 2022, the 2.0 models come in larger sizes – big enough to hide multiple people – and are easier to transport, move, and stand up.

But the shields still are bulky, not quite the cloak you might imagine swishing over your shoulders at a moment's notice. The biggest size is the Megashield, standing 183 centimeters (6 feet) tall, and that apparently takes a couple of people around 15 minutes to set up. At the other end of the scale is the Mini, just about 30 by 20 centimeters (about 12 by 7.9 inches) tall, which you can use to hide smaller objects (but not yourself).

Invisibility shield
Uniform backgrounds and horizontal lines work best. (Invisibility Shield Co)

Made from a high-grade polycarbonate, the shield is fully waterproof and fully recyclable, and no power source is needed – you just follow the supplied instructions to get your shield up and in position.

It's a very clever bit of optical engineering, especially as it's a free-standing shield with no power or special lighting required, and it makes us think that one day we may see a genuine invisibility cloak (even if the laws of physics say it's impossible).