Displaying images on the surface of bubbles

The image you see above isn’t a simple photograph of our blue marble from thousands of miles above. No, that image is much cooler than a satellite because it’s a projection of the Earth onto a soap film screen. Yes, we can now display images on the surface of bubbles.

Instead of a the soap bubbles you’d normally give a small child, this project uses a mixture of sugar, glycerin, soap, surfactant, water, and milk to produce a film much more resistant to popping than your standard soap bubble. Shining an image through these films doesn’t result in much of an image, so the researchers used ultrasonic speakers to vibrate the film and make it possible to display a picture.

With a small projector, this system makes it possible to display an image on the surface of bubble. Of course, the display area is tiny right now, but the size will most likely increase as the experimentations continue.

You can check out a whole bunch of videos demoing this tech after the break.


  1. alucard says:

    omg good job

  2. Luke says:

    Maybe I’m just slow, but what useful things could you do with this tech?

    • Hugh says:

      Not sure but maybe you can create a floating bubble screen.

    • Whatnot says:

      I don’t get it either, why not make a plastic/glass globe and not have all the fragility? What’s the point here?

      • Snarkerd says:

        It’s all about the texture. That’s what they are talking about when they mention BRDF. Handy explanation -> http://www-modis.bu.edu/brdf/brdfexpl.html

        Essentially, displays are flat, the world mostly isn’t. When something that should be bumpy is displayed flat, we can see the difference and it (among many other things) makes computer displays look fake. Bubbles are also flat, until you blast them with sound. By varying the pitch and shape of the sound, you vary the texture of the bubble surface.

        They have implemented a basic BRDF in the display surface. You can imagine this being developed into a monitor that could display, for instance, a picture of cloth so real you could swear someone sneaked in and upholstered it while you weren’t looking.

  3. echodelta says:

    Look into giant films fed with new soap from the top. Two story high indoor installations. These would be super for what you want to do. Flat not bubbles.

  4. jobgg says:

    I love how everytime somebody comes up with a new display/battery/etc. under applications it goes into EVERYTHING, even if it’d be more than unpractical to do so. (Your iTouch screen has to be redrawn mechanically in case you touch it. Also it will emit high frequencies to drive you slowly insane.)

  5. willrandship says:

    Seems like they could eventually transition to frequencies outside the hearing range, to avoid that annoying squeal. Maybe they already have and the camera is just picking it up.

    • Whatnot says:

      Can’t you read? Both in the article and later in the video they show the experimenter with only ultrasonic sound, sound you cannot hear, the start of the video just uses audible sounds to show the effects of waveforms.

      But I guess my post is pointless since you don’t want to read, oh well.

    • evs says:

      I was wondering about that too. What I thought was that maybe those sounds ARE outside of human hearing, but the sampling on the camera microphone caused aliasing which frequency shifted the ultrasound down to human audible frequencies.

      whatnot: no need to be rude. also, you may notice that later in the video there is no sound at all, so there may still be squealing in the original recording.

  6. Jackson says:

    Now I am wondering if it could be scaled up, imagine a show where the people can walk through the screen as though it were not there.
    Could be neat.

  7. Ragman says:

    This is cool but I’m more interested in the proportions they are using for the bubble solution.

  8. Hi Brian,

    Would you please send me the ratio for your soap bubble mixture? I’m building a soap bubble exhibit for my science museum.

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