In the future, any mosquito that dares to get within a 328-foot range of you could be automatically destroyed in midair, thanks to a high-tech "Photonic Fence" developed by Seattle-based Intellectual Ventures Laboratory.
The fence has an invisible wall made of near-infrared light, which helps the wall identify nearby insects buzzing around, target them and go in for the kill.
"We're looking to tell it to kill only mosquitos, fruit flies or sand flies," Arty Makagon, technical lead on the project, told Wired. "You can choose to eliminate all the small, flying things or you can choose to be very specific about the kinds of things you want to kill."
Using cameras and optics, the Photonic Fence examines a bug's shape, velocity, acceleration and how frequently it bats its wings. Then it deploys a laser that kills the insect in less than a second.
"Once it validates a target as a bad bug, we deploy the lethal laser," Makagon said. "Within 25 milliseconds you have a little insect carcass on the ground. Each wall segment is designed to interrogate and, if the target is on the kill list, it will provide a lethal dose to up to 20 insects per second."
It could help save millions of lives.
Though it's a fun novelty in itself, the device could be used to protect people from malaria or other mosquito-borne illnesses, such as Zika or West Nile Virus. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, half the world's population — roughly 3.2 billion people — live in areas "at risk of malaria transmission." That's no joke. Further, an estimated 627,000 people died from malaria in 2012, and the disease most dramatically affects children, pregnant women and travelers who lack immunity.
Here's the bad news: That frontline defense against mosquito-borne diseases is still a work in progress that, quite frankly, might not be a priority for the company. In a 2016 interview with Fast Company, Makagon said the bug-zapping machine would first be used in developed countries to help the system become "economically viable."
Watch mosquitoes slowly die.
The Photonic Fence has been a work in progress for at least seven years, but a 2010 video released by Intellectual Ventures shows it had potential right from the start.
As bad as it sounds, watching mosquitoes get smoked by purple lasers in slow motion is like total revenge porn.
The video's voiceover is music to our ears:
In just one tenth of a second, this [mosquito] has suffered enough damage to its wing to keep it from reproducing. ... As we search for the amount of energy required to disarm a mosquito, we sometimes overdo it a bit, resulting in these dramatic overkill scenes.
Dreams do come true, after all.