Can you pick up the robot?

A cream and purple coloured exhibit table with headboard that has 'Can you pick up the robot?' written upon it.
A cream and purple coloured exhibit table with headboard that has 'Can you pick up the robot?' written upon it, followed by instructions. There is a small gold robot in the centre of a red ring on the top of the table.

Reflect or mirage holograms use specially-curved mirrors to make objects appear to float in mid-air.

How it works

Try to pick up a robot that appears to float in mid-air. Despite knowing it’s a mirage, your brain keeps seeing the robot and you’ll try to pick up the robot again and again.

Things to try or ask around the exhibit

Why does the robot appear to float above the tabletop?

Background

The robot you see floating above the tabletop is just a mirage hologram, created using two curved mirrors or Mirage® technology to generate a three-dimensional hologram of the toy robot, floating in mid-air. The robot hologram is a real image or reflective hologram, rather than a laser hologram.

Light hits the robot and reflects back and forth between the curved mirrors, so the light is directed at a focal point above an opening where it creates the illusion of a solid robot. Your eye-brain visual system cannot tell the difference between a solid object and its reflected image, so it looks solid, even when you logically understand it is not solid at all. A real image like the robot hologram looks three dimensional and is reversed so it faces back-to-front, unlike a reflection (or virtual image) you see in a flat mirror

Finding the science in your world

Magicians and special effect artists often take advantage of the way mirrors or sheets of clear glass reflect light, to give the illusion of something floating in mid-air.