What we call "the air pig" at my house is really called "The Mirage." You can buy one maybe at a museum shop, or on the internet, for between $30 and $40. It's worth it. Though it's a little fragile and has to be cleaned in a special way, it's amazing.
The Mirage is one of those classic toys that has been around for several decades now, but never loses its appeal. It produces a small, full-color hologram of natural, lifelike appearance, allowing 360-degree viewing. The little plastic pig seems solid enough, but when you try and touch it, your fingers find that it is just an illusion - there is nothing there.
Mirage consists of two opposing parabolic mirrors. In overall appearance, Mirage resembles a small 9inch wok with a 2 inch circular opening in the top. The physical object to be converted to a hologram is placed in the concave centre of the bottom mirror. A hologram instantly projects up through this aperture, appearing to the viewer as a truly solid object. We supply the little plastic pig, but you can place any object in the Mirage, and instantly convert it into a wonderful optical illusion!
Mirage was originally discovered over 30 years ago, when a member of staff at the University of California at Santa Barbara was cleaning around a stack of searchlight reflectors (which are parabolic reflectors of course!) when he noticed that he was trying to clean off some 'dust' that turned out not to actually be there! He showed this to one of the physics professors, and the two of them started making a commercial product, based around the phenomenon that they had accidentally discovered.
Their initial product was made of glass, and was quite expensive. Later an American company called Optigone took out a licence, and started making a version in plastic, which could sell for a third of the price. There have been even cheaper copies made in the Far East, but they tend to have lower quality optics. We sell the genuine Optigone Mirage.
We are also the UK distributor for the Mirage, so if you are interested in buying wholesale from us, get in touch.
I don't even know who the "we" are in the writing above. It's what came with the link when I used the "share this video" function on "You Tube," some time back before it disappeared and I had to find it again. (Meanwhile, I had made the one that's here.)
Here's the manufacturer's site: optigone.com, and it's past the the product's 25th anniversary.
I first saw one at the plastics museum in Leominster, Massachusetts. Joyce Fetteroll took me (and Marty and Holly) when we visited there a while back. They had one on the counter at the front desk but had none for sale. I came home and started looking for it. Later I bought one as a gift, at Explora Science Center in Albuquerque.
A NOTE: The site linked above for the plastics museum says "A piece of criminal-puckered bank glass is on display." That's not true, but the photo is good. It's a piece of plastic (not glass) and was tested with four kinds of gunshot. Some distorted the far side of the plastic a little bit; others didn't at all.Anyway, back to that air pig. Items that have been popular here are dice and M&Ms. You can't put too many of anything or anything much bigger than one "D-6" (six sided die) or two M&Ms or the image will distort and you won't fool anybody. But my favorite thing of all has been a drop of water. You can move the tray a bit and it wobbles. And the image shows altogether, so you see the drop of water sitting in the air, seeming to sit on top of the reflection of the drop of water that it is, and it can move. Learn from my mistake, though. Wipe the water up right afterwards instead of letting it evaporate (oops!) especially if you have hard water and it will leave a mark. Something that will wobble and not evaporate is a marble. A piece of Lego can look cool (a small one). Tempting but a bad idea is a rock. Unless it's a polished rock or you're super careful, you risk scratching the surface. [It looks from their webpage that if you get the 22" one instead of the basic little on, you can put a handful of M&Ms. As I think it costs like five times as much, though, that's a lot of money for M&Ms you can't even eat.]
OH! A wedding ring looks great. And they did sell something Lord-of-the-Rings related with a floating one true ring of power. I don't know if it worked just the same way, but probably did. I'm happy with the One True Floating Pig.
From the Optigone site: