"The idea is that if you have a bump on the street, you can cloak it, and the bump will just look like flat ground," Kante said. "We wouldn't want to do that on the street, since it would cause a lot of accidents. But you can hide something, you can make it look like something else."
David Smith, a professor at Duke, who conducted some of the first successful experiments in invisbility with metamaterials, calls Zhang's study a "tour de force," but adds that it is not quite the same sort of "invisibility cloak" one might wear at Hogwarts.
"The actual 'Harry Potter' cloak, or the sort of thing you see in 'Predator,' or 'Star Trek,' is a long ways off," Smith told CNBC.
For one thing, these cloaks are not adaptive — they have to be custom-made to suit a particular object in a particular position. Once the object moves, the cloak can no longer properly hide it. Zhang said you can build a cloak in a shell-like design, that would cloak any object of whatever shape you could fit under it.