One of my favorite things about the Harry Potter universe was the fact that all the photos and paintings of people moved around on their own. Sure it was only a tiny detail, but it was all those little details of how a wizarding world might actually work coming together that made the final product so amazing.

And now, our muggle world has taken one step closer to Harry’s: NTT, Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corporation, recently announced that they’ve developed a way to make normal, printed-out two-dimensional pictures look like they’re moving through a bit of magic of their own.

Well, I only have one thing to say: “You’re a wizard, NTT!”

The way NTT accomplishes this is by using a projector to shine a moving light onto a picture. Before we explain any more though, it might be a good idea to just see what the whole thing actually looks like:

NTT calls the above process “HenGenTou” (Deformation Lamps). It might not be the prettiest name, but it gets the point across: a lamp (the projector) is deforming (magic-ifying) a picture.

But how does it work? It’s quite simple actually. All NTT has done is trick our brains with an optical illusion. Whenever we watch a movie or TV, our brain puts together the “color,” “form,” and “motion” we see to make a moving image. NTT has simply split up the process: the “color” and “form” part are given by the two-dimensional picture, and the “motion” is given by the projector shining a moving grayscale version of the picture over the original. Our brain still puts it all together just the same, resulting in what looks like a moving image.

▼ Come on brain, it’s not a fish, it’s not a fish, it’s not a- oh wow! What a cool fish.


NTT has also developed a way of using HenGenTou on three-dimensional objects too. By using the same kind of projector, they can make it look like a three-dimensional object is moving, either with the object standing alone, or behind a transparent screen that the projector would shine on.

But, while that’s all fine and dandy, we have to ask: what are the real-world applications of this new technology?

▼ Well, besides obviously having better souvenir pictures from the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.


NTT plans on using HenTenGou for advertising (imagine giant moving billboards), interior design (turn your boring old floor into an aquarium, or project a cozy fire onto the wall), and art/entertainment (not quite sure exactly what this one’s going to be, but we can guess it will involve Hatsune Miku).

While the HenTenGou technology is still a long way away from being widely available, it’s still fun to think about all the possibilities it could be used for. Now if we could just somehow convince NTT to make flying brooms or invisibility cloaks their next priority, that would be awesome.

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