It may not be even remotely close to what The Doctor uses on Doctor Who, but a team at the University of Bristol in England has created a sonic screwdriver that utilises the powers of acoustic levitation to move objects.
The “screwdriver”, along with what they’re calling a Gauntlet of Levitation, were created as a way to help humans control acoustic levitation in order to interact with dangerous materials.
“The presented prototypes still have limited forces but symbolise a milestone in our expectations of future technology,” the researchers stated in an abstract posted on the Bristol Interaction Group’s website.
A YouTube video, posted in early May, showcases some of the devices. You can watch the video below.
Acoustic levitation is what it sounds like: using sound waves to levitate objects. There are many ways to use this, but the researchers in the video use what one Nature Communications study calls “traps” to move the targets around. Before, levitated objects had limited movement and couldn’t be turned. As shown in the video, smaller pieces can be rotated, which can be helpful in medical procedures or experiments involving dangerous materials.
“Single-beam levitation could manipulate particles inside our body for applications in targeted drug delivery or acoustically controlled micro-machines that do not interfere with magnetic resonance imaging,” the study stated.
The Doctor’s sonic screwdriver is obviously a little more magical, allowing its holder to do almost anything — from opening locks to hacking systems to scanning any object or person. It can do just about anything as long as the plot calls for it. So we’re not exactly close yet, but maybe we will be in a few thousand years.