Most of the U.S. military's laser projects have to do with using the focused beams of light either as as weapons or as aiming devices for weapons. But now, the Pentagon is experimenting with lasers for an unlikely purpose: actually mimicking human speech. The result is a system that could be useful for psychological operations, making announcements, or just plain weirding out the enemy.
DefenseOne on this profoundly weird Department of Defense program. According to the article, the process relies upon a phenomenon called the Laser Induced Plasma Effect to use one laser, a femtolaser, to create a ball of plasma. That ball of plasma becomes a medium. It is shot with a second laser, a nanolaser, tuned to an extremely narrow frequency. This way, the ball of plasma can be manipulated in ways to produce light and noise.
Here’s the video, in which the experiment looks like a creepy talking version of the Eye of Sauron:
The Joint Non Lethal Weapons Program, or JNLWP, aims to be able to produce this effect on demand to create noise, light, or heat at a distance. Using a five-inch lens, JNLWP can create the plasma medium a kilometer away. An aircraft flying in the air could send voice messages to people on the ground or simulate the sound of gunfire. It’s the sort of technology that is bound only by the limits of human imagination.
The program can’t quite master human speech yet, but JNLWP thinks it can get there with just a little more work. Once it does, the Pentagon will have the ability to create human speech—or the sound of anything, really—out of nothing more than a pair of laser beams.
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