Just in time for Marty McFly's return in 2015, it appears that Japanese scientists have discovered a new method to levitate an object.
Don't preorder your hover board just yet: The research has led to the levitation only of lightweight particles, small creatures, and water droplets. A YouTube video titled "Three-dimensional Mid-Air Acoustic Manipulation" shows how this works. Researchers use four speakers that are set up to face each other on the four sides of a square. An ultrasound beam is used along with localized ultrasonic standing waves that the speakers create, acting as a force that allows the objects to move three-dimensionally.
Among the items that are levitated in the video are a wood piece, a match, a screw, and a piece of plastic.
The technique moves only very small objects, and the focal point generated by the waves is at an arbitrary location. Still, the new discovery in object manipulation is a step up from the previous research, which resulted in moving objects in only one dimension.
Yoichi Ochiai and Jun Rekimoto of the University of Tokyo teamed up with Takayuki Hoshi from the Nagoya Institute of Technology for the project. The video that demonstrates the levitation method and shows it in action was uploaded on New Year's Eve. It already has had over 260,000 views.