Laser projector
The laser projector that creates sound out of thin airPatrick Tucker via YouTube screengrab

The Pentagon is working on the next laser weapon for the US military and it is intended to creep out the enemy rather than to hurt or maim them. The idea is to have a floating ball of plasma that also creates sounds with just the interaction of two beams of laser light out of thin air.

A video of this emerging technology shows a small ball of plasma suspended in a rotating disc where the projection is focused. This weapon is being built so that the army has a system that can mimic any voice or sound.

A system like this could be useful in psychological operations, or even for making announcements, notes a report by Defense One (DO). This project is part of the military's Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Program (JNLWD). It works by altering the atoms in air to create sound. Called laser-induced plasma effect, the military hopes to get it to speak using human sounds in about three years.

The projector is composed of two major parts – a femtosecond laser that fires off bursts of highly precise lasers for about 10 to 15 seconds. This rips up molecules from the air and creates a ball of plasma. Plasma, sometimes called the fourth state of matter, is a field of electrified gas that is highly responsive to electromagnetic fields.

Once the plasma is formed, a nanolaser beam hits it. This second beam is reportedly tuned to a narrow range of wavelengths. Scientists then manipulate the plasma field, creating sound. As of now, the system is still in early stages of development. It sounds like a broken ham radio.

Scientists are now able to create sound, heat, and light from lasers. And, soon we could have full range of sound and voices as well as life-like projections. The report says that it is possible to project heat, light, and sound to about a kilometer away using just a 5-inch lens. This could help the military send voice messages to soldiers far away. An aircraft can also simulate gun fire on a region it flies over using this technology. The possibilities are virtually endless.

This tech, paired with a capable AI, can probably bring out the eye of Sauron meets HAL nightmares to life.