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Hard Light

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The impossible technology we're fine with, but we draw the line at a 4-dimensional hypercube being perceivable.

The Flash: [faced with half a dozen clones of Luminus] This is supposed to scare me? They're just illusions.
Luminus: [starts beating the crap out of Flash] I can make light solid, chump.

When ordinary light, whether it comes from science fiction projectors or a magic spell, seems to have (or really does have) actual substance, it's Hard Light. Hard light objects behave like any other object — chairs support weight, bullets kill, razors shave, and so forth. An illusory person made of Hard Light can pick up real things and interact physically with real people, even though they don't technically exist.

Strictly speaking, hard light is not holography. A hologram is a sort of three-dimensional projection. It is not solid. If something is solid, it is, by definition, not a hologram.

That said, it's easy to imagine holography being used in tandem with some other technology (Deflector Shields, perhaps) to produce a projection which seems solid to observers. The Holographic Terminal in its "real world" form comes to mind.

People will usually refer to these constructs as "holograms" for the sake of convenience. If the holograms only seem to manipulate reality because Your Mind Makes It Real, see Cyberspace. Can be used to create a Virtual Training Simulation. Often involves a Holodeck Malfunction. See also Hologram Projection Imperfection for when holograms don't work properly and have visual static or other glitches.

See Ride the Rainbow if your Hard Light is a rainbow. If your ray of light is not only hard, but also hot and has incredible cutting powers, you've got yourself a Laser Cutter. See also Pure Energy.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Yu-Gi-Oh!:
    • The Duel Disk systems use this, with the Solid vision Hologram System, originally invented by Seto Kaiba. It very rarely matters since the monsters are mostly just fighting each other. Still, when monsters attack the opposing player directly, it actually hurts.
    • Which makes it even weirder during a scene in GX that actually shows objects going through a monster hologram.
    • Early on it was explained that this was a feature of the Duel Disk itself (it would create a bit of feedback to make the duels more realistic, like a very advanced rumble pack). Now that the duels are pretty much just excuses for each successive Big Bad to show how much badder he is than the last, the running explanation is something to the effect of "Who the hell cares?"
    • One also has to consider that more than half the duels involve some way in which the monsters become a reality.
    • Explained more in Yu-Gi-Oh! 5Ds, in the duel academia episode. Lua/Rua/Leo was commended for having good acting skills instead of good dueling skills. The psychic duelists however... (Then there's the duels with the Dark Signers, the Three Emperors, a ghost...)
      • Played a bit oddly in 5D's as well in Akiza's early duels. Aki has the power to make her monsters real, which puts her opponents in real danger, so they noticeably reacts to getting attacked. Her opponents have no such powers, so Aki doesn't react at all to getting attacked (both to show that they're not real, and to show that Aki doesn't care enough to play it up and act like they're real for the audience). However, the attacks from her opponents monsters occasionally create (holographic) explosions that sometimes create winds that blow around dust and characters clothes and hair, so there must be SOMETHING physical going on.
    • In Yu-Gi-Oh! ARC-V, the holograms are marketed as "Solid Vision with mass", as they are solid enough to interact with. The trope was Deconstructed later in the series due to the fact that a lot of people were shown getting hurt due to the technology. The Fusion Dimension takes it further and turns the game into a weapon of war, and they've already laid waste to the Xyz Dimension.
  • Lyrical Nanoha's Ground Battlefield Simulator, which seems to have taken a page from the X-Men's Danger Room and expanded it to the size of a city. Reflection also introduces Iris, an AI who interacts with the world in this manner. Though she isn't actually an AI, and regains her human form near the end of the movie.
  • Sixshot in Transformers: ★Headmasters is adept at creating holograms that can fool any human or robot. They are perfectly capable of fighting, and even shooting real lasers.
  • Folken in The Vision of Escaflowne movie attempts to persuade the heroine to his side twice projecting his image to distant places with his (or possibly Sora's) psychic powers. The second time he does this he grasps her hand quite physically.
  • In the Future Arc of Reborn! (2004), Mukuro, Ken and Chikusa appear as solid illusions to help Chrome in her fight against Glo Xinia. This is initially averted, however, as without the Vongola Mist Ring, Mukuro was only able to simulate physical illusions by hiding rocks in them.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion:
    • In Evangelion 2.22 Evangelion Unit-01 makes a new arm out of light after having its first one cut off.
    • Also, in the original series, it is implied that the Angels' bodies are composed of a "form of matter similar to light" in the sense that it exists as a particle and a wave simultaneously.
  • Averted by the Logia User Kizaru in One Piece: when he attack he briefly turns his legs solid in order to deliver a super-powerful kick. Played straight with his light sword.
  • The Lightwave Barrier in Gundam Seed.
  • Appetite Energy from Toriko seems to work like this, as it involves using said energy to make solid constructs like forks, knives, spoons, a wolf head, a giant Pac-Man-esque ball, and demonic Guardian Entities.
  • Plasma the Light Demon God from Yaiba is seemingly made of light, in spite of being solid enough to hit the heroes and being cut by Yaiba's sword.
  • Yakumo's strongest Juuma from 3×3 Eyes is Guang Ya ("Light Fang"): incredible speed combined with enough power to wreck through a whole quarter and a searing hot body and yet seems to be tangible and physical.
  • Ether in EDENS ZERO can be converted into solid objects by machines and Ether Gear, particularly the Happy Blasters' bullets and Homura's Soul Blade.
  • Canal in Lost Universe is a projection personifying the Swordbreaker. She is described as holographic and changes forms at will, winks out when out of range of the projector, etc., but is nonetheless able to manipulate solid objects.

    Card Games 
  • According to Yu-Gi-Oh! Master Guide 4, the advanced technology of the Mecha Phantom Beast archetype includes quantum-output machines. The decoys created by these machines are nearly indistinguishable from the original on radar and are said to be so efficient at drawing away fire, that as long as a single decoy has been deployed, the original machine cannot be shot down.

    Comic Books 
  • Captain America: The Falcon's Wakandan-made costume has hard light wings, able to change shape based on how he needs to move. Animated versions give him the ability to fire laser Feather Flechettes from them, but this has yet to find its way into the comics.
  • In Critter, Rookie is a sports-themed superheroine with the ability to form hard light constructs in the shape of sporting equipment. Baseball and ice hockey seem to be her favourite sports.
  • The various Green Lantern characters have always been able to create structures like this with their power rings. Originally, it was just simple structures of green light, but they've gotten more complex and multichromatic as time goes on. Pre-Crisis, this was called "psychoplasmic energy", i.e., energy that responded to the will of sentient beings. Post-Crisis, it's actually a form of psionic energy that's visible as colors that represent particular emotions or drives for... some reason.
  • Justice League of America:
    • One story arc features two light-themed villains developing tangible constructs of light to torment the heroes.
    • Dr. Light II of (Kimiyo Hoshi) is a light controller, able to create hard light constructs. The original Dr. Light, a villain, can do it as well, but with gadgets.
  • Marauders has the 2nd version of the team go up against a Sh'iar noble house, the Kin Crimson (who's most noted member is Eric the Red). Through a subject race capable of creating hard light constructs and Sh'iar gene tech, the Kin Crimson have "Hard Skin" which is a combat suit that lets the wearer conjure weapons and tools (and in Eric's case, imitation Marauders) made of light.
  • Megalex features a few examples, most notably a sinister Sapient Ship personality named Shalise. Shalise is a holographic projection but is able to attack people in the real world with seemingly physical claws.
  • One-shot The Mighty Thor supervillain Locus can generate geometric shapes which manifest as pink hard light. Came within seconds of defeating Thor through the awesome power of math.
  • The New Universe: John Tensen's powers appear to work similar to this in newuniversal, as he attacks with blades of light, and can block bullets with 'screens' of the same light, as well as use them as platforms to walk upon.
  • Quasar: The Quantum Bands have the power to create solid light constructs. According to the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe, they are actually made of air molecules that have been bound together with photons, although no explanation of how Quasar can create such constructs in outer space is given.
  • Sonic the Comic: In a one-off story in the 1995 Holiday Special, an inventor named Rhino Neil invites Sonic and his friends to test his "Paradise Dome", a "solid light" simulation of a tropical island (basically, a holodeck). Sonic isn't interested, but his friends jump at the chance for a holiday. Shortly afterward, though, Sonic realizes that "Rhino" had called him Spikeball, which only Robotnik calls him, and his friends just walked into a trap. True to form, the island suddenly becomes unbearably hot, and the Freedom Fighters are attacked by Badniks — which are themselves solid-light holograms and hence indestructible. Luckily, Sonic gets back in time and destroys the dome's projector, saving their lives.
  • Spider-Man:
    • Lightmaster uses solid light to make hammers, sharp axes, and concussive bursts. He can also use it to fly.
    • Stunner is a hard light hologram controlled by Angelina Brancale, an obese woman who wanted to be thin and beautiful and powerful; Doctor Octopus gave her a machine that allowed her to be Stunner.
  • In the Superman story arc The Girl with the X-Ray Mind, Kryptonian mad scientist Kru-El creates a mind-over-matter machine which lets him turn anything his brain is imagining into solid holograms. After turning on device, he creates a monstrous Kryptonian critter.
  • The Thunderbolts heroine Songbird does something that is equivalent to this, using a device to create constructs out of "Hard Sound". Note that her powers resemble those of the older villain Klaw (from Fantastic Four), to the point of being the same color (red). Most likely, the same technology was used.
  • Transformers: The titular robots have sometimes employed holograms to depict fake drivers at the wheels of robot vehicles. The Transformers (IDW) took this a step farther by allowing the driver roam quite a distance from the Transformer and interact with objects, and also gave it a name: holomatter.
  • The Wildsiderz wear suits with projectors that gives them "holographic powers" of animals.
  • Wonder Woman:
    • During The Golden Age of Comic Books, Paula's Space Transformer created hard light recreations of things that have occurred, and sometimes things which will occur, on the platform it projects onto when it's not being treated as an outright time travel machine.
    • Wonder Woman (1987): The original Dr. Psycho's ability was to create things out of "psychoplasmic energy", which were hard constructs of light (referred to as "ectoplasim" due to their origin) which faded out once he wasn't concentrating on them, using a medium who was knocked out once under his sway so he'd have enough psychic power on hand to create his constructs without draining himself.
    • Wonder Woman (1987): Julian Lazarus' experiments are focused on creating hard light constructs with an artificial ai and appearance derived from a program observing recordings of living or deceased beings with a little input by Dr. Lazarus and his assistants. He doesn't have it down yet and the constructs are prone to violent explosions when exposed to unexpected physical contact, which ends up blowing up his lab and killing his son.
  • X-Men:
    • Cyclops' Eye Beams. They're always described as consisting of force, not heat. They're not always depicted that way, but that's another story...
    • The Danger Room produces solid holograms, using the term "hard light" to describe the Shi'ar technology it used.
    • Producing various kinds of light, including the Hard variety, is the superpower of Dazzler.
    • Bishop's sister Shard once existed as a being of hard light, before heroically sacrificing herself by letting herself be absorbed into him to help him escape from Fitzroy.

    Fan Works 
  • In Thirty Hs, Harry Potter at one point has a book made of lasers, which he was apparently able to slam shut.
  • In Pokémon Reset Bloodlines, the move Infestation manifests as bugs made of solid light binding enemies and biting into them.
  • In Rocketship Voyager, Janeway and Chakotay have a This Cannot Be! reaction to the holographic beach on the Array, as it has water you can swim in and even fish you can eat. Everyone gets a shock when the Caretaker's mooks suddenly turn it off, and all the people swimming in or sailing on the ocean find themselves thrashing about on a metal deck in a much smaller space than they thought they were in.
  • In Nobody's Hero, Ai was able to integrate LINK VRAINS into the real world, turning the-once data monsters real and allowing them to wreak havoc in the real world. Unlike in duels, the monster's strength depends on the Duelist's determination instead of life points. Turns out, he used a Real Solid Vision projector to combine LINK VRAINS and the real world.
  • Invader Zim: A Bad Thing Never Ends:
    • Aldrich Coathanger makes use of hardlight holograms for a variety of uses, from disguising his Mecha-Mooks as humans to creating weapons or temporary walkways.
    • Zim steals some of Aldrich's tech during the NASAPlace fight, and retools it for the Announcer to use.

    Films — Animation 
  • Much of Ecoban's technology in Sky Blue makes use of hard light. At the very end, Shua is able to plug a physical device containing the self-destruct code into an entirely holographic terminal.
  • The Drej, alien antagonists in Titan A.E., are an entire species made of hard light or something very like it. They don't appear to have or use matter in any way.
  • Spiderman Across The Spiderverse has Miguel O’Hara, who is not like the majority of the Spider-Society, Miguel's suit and webbing are hard light constructs, providing him a measure of versatility the others lack. The suit can shift to create blades, claws, and a wingsuit, and the webbing isn't affected by outside forces in the same way physical webbing is (for example, strong winds and gravity). Unfortunately for him, it also means Miles can drain his suit away through physical contact, which he can't do with the other Spiders.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In the 1936 Flash Gordon serial, a "bridge of light" can be turned on to walk from the roof of one Martian building to another.
  • In the Soviet sci-fi two-part film Moscow — Cassiopeia, the relativistic starship ZARYa is equipped with the so-called Surprise Chamber, which allows the teenage crew to recreate different Earth locations. While they aren't as perfect as Star Trek: The Next Generation holodecks (the sides are slightly reflective), the sights, sounds, and smells are pretty realistic.
  • TRON does this with the Light wall/Ribbon and Light Staff.
  • The lightsabers in Star Wars essentially function as hardlight blades.

  • The Culture drones' fields: They manipulate force fields with a very high degree of precision and control. Skaffen-Amtiskaw, in Use Of Weapons is seen using fields both as incredibly sharp "blades" and blunt objects, medical instruments (sucking blood away from a wound and performing surgery), and supporting pillars. Other drones carry objects and make mirrors from fields, and the gun in "A Gift From The Culture" extends one to "field anchor" its wielder's arm for a steady shot. The fields are generally coloured to depict the mood of the drone - for example, red is "the colour of drone pleasure". This is helpful, as a drone has no facial features or body language to interpret. In Consider Phlebas they use the word "soligram" to refer to this concept.
  • Used, but not described as such, in the Skylark Series by E. E. "Doc" Smith, written in the 1930s. His "projectors" could send out other "projectors" of pure "force" that could manipulate material objects, transmute substances, act as remote "television broadcasters" and "spy-rays", and even manipulate objects at the core of dwarf stars (that's how lenses are created for the highest level of projectors). The in-novel justification for all this was that the hero was originally using matter to channel forces — the sufficiently advanced aliens simply did away with using the matter, and channeled the forces directly.
  • John W. Campbell's 'Arcot, Morey and Wade' stories (originally written in the 1930s, and collected in book form in the 1950s) feature lux metal, for occasions when neutronium just isn't super-sciencey enough. It's "made of light — photons so greatly compressed that they were held together by their own gravitational fields."
  • In Murray Leinster's 1947 story "The Skit-Tree Planet", explorers investigate a planet that shows signs of having been inhabited by an alien race that somehow disappeared without leaving any buildings or artifacts behind. They eventually figure out that the aliens used hard light projections for everything, summoning them as needed and disappearing them when done.
  • In Orson Scott Card's Earth Unaware, Asteroid Miners use lasers to burn through the outer shell of asteroids to reach valuable ore pockets. However, the author appears to think that lasers are solid lances and what happens to the "front" of it affects the ship firing it. Specifically, the ship has to fire rockets to maintain position relative to the asteroid in order to counteract the push of the laser. But when a laser beam encounters a pocket of ice, it burns through it much quicker than through rock... resulting in the laser somehow not pushing the ship backwards as if it's falling forwards.
  • The pulverized supercomputer in Life, the Universe and Everything manipulated tricks of light, and was shown to be able to at least make a good semblance of a couch.
  • Seen throughout The Seventh Tower series by Garth Nix. The Chosen make use of sunstones — growing crystals that absorb the sun's energy — to do everything, from building, making music, weapons, to creating suits of armor and rainbow-colored stairs to escape a large pit. Sunstones are even used as decoration, heating, and jewelry. Since the sunstones are never described as anything more than powerful battery packs that store energy, which is used in the form of light beams, it falls under this trope.
  • "Shaped energy" in the Perry Rhodan universe. Most famously used by the first aliens to successfully invade and actually conquer the Milky Way Galaxy, who even built their ships out of the stuff. (Which came back to haunt them several decades later when their recharge stations suddenly up and left.) The technology has been around ever since.
  • In John Brunner's The Traveller in Black series, the title character carries a walking staff made out of light.
  • Hologram Fun World, an amusement park in Galaxy of Fear, purported to have a hologram attraction that fooled all the other senses, the Nightmare Machine. It was actually a psychic monster.
  • The Lightbringer Series is a satisfyingly in-depth fantasy treatment of this. Mages are exclusively called 'drafters,' who can create and shape 'luxin' of various colors into physical objects and effects (walls, bridges, weapons, bursts of flame, etc.) with a lot of room for cunning tricks of engineering. Most drafters work in one color, some can work in two, a rare few can use three or more, and the Prism (ruler of the Seven Satrapies) uses all of them with phenomenal endurance. Drafters who channel too much luxin in their lifetimes willingly remake their own bodies with implanted luxin structures in an especially literal application of this trope; other uses of luxin still qualify because luxin deteriorates into light and evaporates unless it is 'sealed.' Finally, drafting ability partially depends on the ability to perceive subtle nuances of color, giving females a statistical advantage.
  • As described in The Great Divorce by C. S. Lewis, the sunrise that coincides with the Second Coming produces a light that's more solid than the thin ghosts that inhabit hell, tearing them to pieces.
    "The light, like solid blocks, intolerable of edge and weight, came thundering upon my head."
  • White supremacist supervillain Purity from Worm can manifest "kinetically-charged" light that she uses for blasts and flight.
    • The members of New Wave (who just happen to be a biologically-related family) all have variations on light and hard light manipulation as their superpower.
    • The heroine Ursa Aurora can manifest hard light bears to fight for her.
  • In Super Powereds, Angela Desoto is able to make temporary solid objects out of light and manipulate them. Her usual choices include armor, shields (the medieval kind), and various blades. It's no surprise that she's been at the top of her class for four years straight. Her power is inherited from her grandfather, the first costumed Hero named Captain Starlight.
  • Shallan Davar of The Stormlight Archive has the power of Lightweaving, creating illusionary images out of light. At first the images are incorporeal which limits the ways she can use them. By the climax of Oathbringer she's starting to work out how to combine her Lightweaving with her second power of Soulcasting, transforming one substance into another, which makes her illusions more solid and better able to resist enemy soldiers.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Red Dwarf is the Trope Namer.
    • Virtual Ghost Rimmer became tangible in Series 6 via a "hard light drive". In this case, the hard light drive is not only better than his old soft light drive but better than regular life itself, since it makes him more or less indestructible (though still able to feel pain) and immune to aging — well, aside from the human aging of actor Chris Barrie. Downside: extremely power intensive, so it cannot be done indefinitely.
    • However it's been seen since that "virtually indestructible", as Legion described hard light, is an extremely generous description. Ace Rimmer and Howard Rimmer, both hard light holograms, were killed by a shot to the light bee in Series 7 and 10, respectively. The first one with a World War II-era rifle, even. We also know that millions and millions of hard light Ace Rimmers have died in the line of duty across countless dimensions.
    • In the episode 'Demons and Angels,' an evil copy of the pre-hard light Rimmer uses a holo-whip to attack Lister. Presumably this is an early incarnation of the technology that eventually became hard light several centuries later.
    • In "The Promised Land", Rimmer gets a second upgrade to "Diamond Light", which turns him into (essentially) a superhero. The power demands are even greater, and he ends up burning out his light-bee battery, leaving him in worse shape than he started.
  • Star Trek:
    • The idea was popularized by the holodeck of Star Trek: The Next Generation, although they weren't responsible for the standard "hard light" Hand Wave. Strictly speaking, Star Trek holograms are not hard light, as the physical part comes from the use of forcefields rather than being an intrinsic quality of the hologram. The EMH Doctor in Star Trek: Voyager often refers to himself (or fellow holograms) as "photons and forcefields" (as opposed to flesh and blood). Sentient holograms in the Delta Quadrant tended to refer to themselves and others like them as "photonics".
    • This is even lampshaded in the Star Trek: Voyager episode "Phage". Neelix's lungs are stolen (... yeah) and the Doctor proposes that they be temporarily replaced with holographic lungs. As seen in this video, when Tom Paris points out that it can't work, as light is intangible, the Doctor slaps him. Some holograms such as the Doctor also have the ability to switch between solid and non-solid by deactivating the force field portion of their program separately to the hologram.
    • It is All There in the Manual: holodecks use both holographic projections for visuals, and force fields for physical effects that can vary from touching something to running into a wall — including allowing people to walk while still remaining in place (the floor is a forcefield treadmill).
    • The explanation for holographic solidity varied on TNG. At first tangible objects were replicated and manipulated by tractor beams, and there was at least one episode where they discussed "holographic matter" as only having cohesion due to being powered by the holodeck, but eventually "photons and forcefields" was the explanation that won out.
      • It's conceivable that objects that need very fine simulation may be replicated, which would explain being able to eat holographic food, but in an episode of Voyager, characters who ought to know what they're talking about discuss guilt-free holodeck dining, explicitly stating that their holocoffee would disappear as soon as they left the holodeck.
    • It's also possible that holodeck technology evolves over time. This could explain why Voyager's holodeck, when powered off, looks different from that of the Enterprise-D: the latter uses more holographic matter and the former uses more forcefields — possibly a better solution for a holographic doctor.
    • What usually doesn't get mentioned in canon material is the optical component. For example, two real characters can enter the holodeck, activate a program, and then walk far apart from one another. The holodeck adjusts air refraction to make them appear smaller to one another, as one would expect from being far away.
  • Automan became solid simply via the application of large amounts of power. It actually makes some sense, given relativity's mass-energy relationship, but would require the entire world's energy consumption over about 6 days.
  • SeaQuest DSV featured an alien race with the technology of "silicon holography" — "holograms" which were projected on silicon particles suspended in the air to make them solid. They left a pile of sand behind whenever they disappeared.
  • The guardian holograms created by the Ancients in Stargate SG-1 are sort of a borderline example — solid objects pass right through them, but getting hit by one hurts. And they can be "killed" with entirely holographic swords, which are wielded by real characters.
  • Arrow: Ray Palmer builds an A.T.O.M. suit in this series, which is described as having 'hard light' projectors among its weapon systems.
  • Heroes: An apparent secondary effect of Emma's synesthesia power is turning the sound-light she sees into a concussive blast.
  • In the Farscape "Look at the Princess" trilogy, the royal family possess a machine that can show what any potential child would look like and allows you to hold and interact with them.
  • Other Space has an eleventh-hour example when Natasha has a date with Kent by projecting an Italian restaurant. No one makes use of or even refers to her apparent ability to manifest a holodeck beforehand.
  • Naturally, being a homage to Star Trek, Seth MacFarlane's The Orville has holodecks show up several times, although they haven't (yet) proved important to the plot. The Ace Pilot Gordon Malloy is a big fan of holo-recreation. His introductory scene has Ed walk into Gordon, dressed as a samurai, fighting an ogre in a Japanese village. Gordon even made sure to give the ogre a friendly personality. Another episode starts with Ed, Gordon, and John engage in a Wild West scenario, where they play as a trio of cowboys riding up to the lair of a bandito. Except Gordon has slightly modified the scenario, much to Ed and John's chagrin. Instead of a shootout, the bandito leader challenges the cowboys to a dance-off.
  • Ms. Marvel (2022): Kamala can create light projections that become a crystalline solid mass, which she outright calls "hard light" in the second episode. She can use them to create floating platforms for a form of Not Quite Flight, make barriers, cover her hands in order to punch things, or use them to simulate the Rubber Man powers she had in the comics.

  • Animusic: "Heavy Light" and "Fiber Bundles" both throw balls of light at the percussion instruments.

    Myths & Religion 

  • Future Spa has a man performing weightlifting repetitions using a beam of orange light instead of a weight bar.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Dungeons & Dragons the spells Prismatic Sphere and Prismatic Wall are versions of this.
  • Some spells of light in Anima: Beyond Fantasy create objects made of solid light.note 
  • In Rocket Age it is highly ambiguous whether Ancient Martian holigrams can occasionally be hard light, or whether there is some other sensory technology deployed in concert with the visuals. Whatever the reason, the effect is that one facility has what may be hard light simulations.
  • Most of the Ravnos clan in Vampire: The Masquerade are Masters of Illusion whose powers focused on trickery. Their nearly-extinct elders, on the other hand, are capable of making those illusions quite real. Fortunately for everyone else, they're a Dying Race in spite of this.

  • In BIONICLE, Toa of Light can utilize this to a limited degree; they can form simple constructs of hard light like shields or cages, but must maintain concentration to keep it up and can't make anything too complex.

    Video Games 
  • In ANNO: Mutationem, each of Ann's weapons is built from a utilized material called electropolymerization that solidifies light to transform it from plasma to a physical state. Requiring a zinc energy source, it allows solid light to be changed into various shapes for the weapon that's in-use.
  • In Bayonetta, the eponymous witch comes across floating, giant halos made of hard light she must use as platforms in Paradiso. A bit later in the game, the boss Iustitia can attack her by creating light buzzsaws circling around its tentacles.
  • This seems to be the underlying principle behind "digistruction" technology in Borderlands. It can be used to instantly conjure vehicles, turrets, duplicates of yourself, or even a new body for yourself when you die (though that particular use is strictly a game mechanic— in story, death is permanent). Tediore manufactures digistructed guns that shapeshift into grenades after running out of ammo, after which you can simply spawn a fully loaded one from the holster (though they're noted to be of pretty low quality).
  • The technology in CABAL Online can create objects via a medium. The Orbs and Crystals that Wizards, Force Shielders, and Force Archers use can manifest their weapons via this method. Astral Bikes and Boards are also made up of hard light that is manifested from an Astral Card and can even be used to attack enemies before it disappears.
  • Dark Souls:
    • It turns out that every monster in Anor Londo is actually an illusion created by Gwyndolin, save for Ornstein, Smough, the Painting Guardians, and possibly the Mimics. There's subtle hints to this throughout the environment, such as the Batwing Demons using lightning spears despite just about all other demons using chaos weaponry, and only the Painting Guardians attempt to heal with Estus flasks. You still gain souls from them, and at least some of their equipment is substantial (i.e. they drop swords, shields, and some armor) but the monsters cease to exist if you kill the illusion of his sister Gwynevere, which angers Gwyndolin enough for him to dispel the other illusions and send his servants after you. Since there's no way to kill Gwynevere before facing them, it's entirely possible that even Ornstein and Smough are illusions as well.
    • The Moonlight Greatsword, a weapon that appears in several FromSoftware games, has a tiny physical blade that projects a blade of solid magical moonlight. The sword is lightweight for its size since its physical component is the size of a dagger and it deals pure magic damage. The sword reappears in the the sequel with the same properties and a slightly different appearance. Another sword, the Bluemoon Greatsword, has the same appearance as the Moonlight Greatsword from the first game, and its wielder Benhart believes that it is the same legendary sword. The sword's weight and lack of magic damage make it clear that it's just a forgery.
  • In the Dead Space series many holograms are solid enough to be used as interfaces.
  • The '95 PC game The Dig employed Hard Light in the form of bridges activated by Boston Low, the main character. If the player contacted Maggie about them, the two exchanged "light" puns (a "light" salad, "light" beer, etc.)
    Boston: If they can make bridges out of light, you have to wonder if they can make anything ELSE.
    Maggie: You mean — light beer?
    Boston: I was thinking more of a light house.
  • The Ixian Projectors from Emperor: Battle for Dune can project hard light copies of units, which can even deal damage. The downside is, being solid holograms, touching enemy units or being shot at instantly destroys them. Still, it allows one to Zerg Rush with an army of holographic Sardaukar Elites while only paying for the Projector(s) to be built and one Sardaukar to be copied. The size of your holographic army is only limited by the number of projectors you build and how fast you can click on your target unit, as there is no cap on the number of projections, nor a Magic Points cost for projecting them. This makes them extremely useful for the penultimate mission where you attack your enemy's homeworld, as there is no spice to harvest, leaving you to rely on your starting cash.
  • Fairune 2 has hard light used for bridges in the Blue Temple.
  • Fallout:
    • It may seem like it would be so in Fallout 3, but it isn't: Laser weapons have no kill impulse in their impacts, or any force upon inanimate objects.
    • In Fallout: New Vegas, however, the DLC Dead Money introduces the Holorifle, which does have a kill impulse. It works by shooting a scattering of holographic cubes that does a crap-ton of damage even when the gun is loaded with low-grade bulk cells. Dead Money also has security holograms, which can attack the player but are invulnerable themselves. You have to destroy their projector to get rid of them.
  • The Family Guy video game has Bertram use holograms of himself during his boss battle, which are very annoyingly somehow able to fire real lasers that can hurt you.
  • Final Fantasy:
    • Final Fantasy VII's prequel, Crisis Core, in which Shinra has training programs that are essentially holograms. What makes that this Trope is that the holograms can completely imitate the physical qualities of the object. For example, Sephiroth's sword will actually cut you, even though it's not the real Sephiroth. Also, somehow, it creates its own arid desert.
    • In Final Fantasy XII, in the Great Crystal, entire pathways are made out of nothing more than solid projections of light.
    • Final Fantasy XIV:
      • In Shadowbringers, Dohn Mheg is an elaborate illusion of the Fuath's weaving that takes the form of their "kingdom" beneath the waters of Longmirror Lake. Although it's all technically a series of glamours, the "land" within is tangible as are the vicious monsters that line the paths along the way. Emet-Selch overlays a similar glamour over the ruins of Amaurot in the Tempest along with facsimiles of his fallen people who each have limited ability to make conversation and respond as though they were living people.
      • The 2022 Starlight Celebration introduces Blitzen, a magical reindeer with the ability to produce glamours for the sake of children. Unlike most glamours which are purely illusions, Blitzen's glamours are tangible. The mount provided at the end of the event's storyline is a glamour of Blitzen's making that can be ridden into the sky and produce the same glamours that he does.
  • Fire Emblem Fates: Takumi's Fujin Yumi doesn't have a tangible bowstring or use normal arrows. Rather, by channeling his willpower into the Yumi, it creates a bowstring and arrows composed of solid light.
  • Due to the massive scale of Genshin Impact, the topic of hard light is best broken down by the noting the different ways the principal nations of Teyvat use it.
  • In God of War (PS4) and God of War Ragnarök, the Light Elves use crystals to harness the Light of Alfheim and make solid blue-colored structures out of it, such as bridges and walls. In the former game, Atreus can use arrows imbued with the light to shoot crystals and make passages.
  • Guild Wars 2 has the Holosmith, the Engineer elite specialization added with Path of Fire, that uses a Photon Forge to instantly create weapons, shields and temporary ground modifications out of hard light.
  • The Combine from Half-Life have light bridges in their Citadel, as well as selectively permeable light gates to keep citizens out of Combine-controlled areas.
  • Halo:
    • The Forerunners were quite fond of using hard light; examples in the first game alone include the Index (which can exist in a physical form that can be handled by ordinary organics, but can also be downloaded by AIs like Cortana and Guilty Spark and stored as electronic data), as well as light bridges.
    • The Heretic Leader in Halo 2 has holograms that can wield weapons and be hit by projectiles; the prevailing theory is that those were Forerunner devices given to him by 343 Guilty Spark.
    • Halo 4 and The Forerunner Saga reveal that the Forerunners even used hard light to create weapons, ships, and even buildings. In fact, almost all of the structures you see on Requiem are made of hard light (shooting them will produce a distinctive pattern which is quickly "healed"); it's almost perfectly disguised to look like regular metal and glass, to the point where its unnaturally perfect symmetry, cleanliness, and brightness are what give it away.
    • Its prevalence is justified as well: Forerunners have mastered harnessing unimaginably vast amounts of vacuum energy, to the point that energy is no longer just something to make their (undoubtedly highly consumptive) machines work, it's now one of their most useful and common building materials. And that it's so durable that Cortana was able to immediately erect a shield of Hard Light around Master Chief to protect him after he had manually detonated A NUCLEAR WARHEAD.
  • Heroes of Might and Magic:
    • Unlike previous games, illusory creatures in IV act just like real creatures. The flavor text in the library implies it's a case of Your Mind Makes It Real.
    • In VI, the human cavalry ride steeds made of light into battle.
  • Eugene Sims in inFAMOUS: Second Son is a Conduit with the power of video; he can take artificial light from a television or computer screen and project it into the real world as a hard light being, usually as weapons and creatures from his favorite video game. This includes large swords, demons and angels, and even changing himself into an angelic soldier. As shown in inFAMOUS: First Light he is also able to create hard light DUP soldiers, in which Augustine forces him to do so in order to provide enemies in an arena to train Fetch to kill.
  • The Legend of Zelda:
    • The light arrows in several games seem to be composed of solid light energy.
    • The access to Ganon's floating castle in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is a bridge made of light (created by the sages Link awakened).
    • And some stairs and platforms in the Tower of the Gods, in The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker.
    • The stairs in the Temple of Time in The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess; also the bridges in the Twilight Realm as well as the bridge to the Twilight Realm. The Sword of the Sages, with which they failed to execute Ganondorf and latter then took for his own use, also appears to be made of the same.
    • Ancient Sheikah Magitek frequently uses this in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. The Remote Bomb rune makes either square or round bombs depending on Link's needs that appear to be light constructs, and the fact that they are Hard Light rather than traditional combustible explosives explains why you can't use them to light fires. Guardian weapons and shields also employ this, having the sword blades, axe/spear/arrow heads, and shields go into and out of "combat mode" like a Laser Blade, but still function and perform identically to a standard metal one. Lastly, the elevators into the Shrines and the Monks waiting at the end are contained in Hard Light barriers.
  • Mario Party 8: The minigame Picture Perfect has two Shy Guys turn each one projector, whose images are segmented into rotating panels Rubik-style. The image at the left is divided into four parts, and one player has to use a remote gun to solidify them, causing them to stop and make it so all parts assemble a holographic image shown at the center. The three rival players have to do the same thing with the projected image at the right, only it's divided into nine parts, so they need good coordination so they can stop them and efficiently assemble the desired solid image. Both the solo player and the rival trio have 20 seconds to assemble the current image, and if time runs out another image will be requested. The solo player wins if they manage to form three full images before the rival trio does, and vice versa; but if five rounds pass and neither side manages to assemble three images, the minigame ends in a tie.
  • Treated weirdly in Mass Effect.
    • Almost every computer interface in the galaxy is a Holographic Terminal that looks like this, but is actually an in-universe visual aid. The all-purpose Omnitool everyone wears? They're not typing on anything physical - the sense of touch is caused by haptic gloves or subdermal implants. Tech Armor plates are warping fields that disrupt incoming fire, and are illuminated to warn comrades not to get too close. The third game's Laser Blade is just a warning light so you don't burn or cut yourself with the real weapon, which is an ultra-thin transparent blade of flash-forged silicon.
    • The Pinnacle Station in the DLC of the same name for the first game is more or less identical to the TNG Holodeck as described. It uses light projections to create the visuals, and kinetic barriers (the ME equivalent to force-fields) to allow it to interact with real people.
  • Mega Man (Classic):
  • Mega Man X4: Split Mushroom can create multiple holographic clones of himself to attack X/Zero, and he'll make more at a time the lower his health is. They can be attacked to get rid of, with only one hit if his weakness is used. This is only a step below his strongest ability, where he'll make a fully-similar clone of himself to confuse the player. X is able to copy this ability with the aptly named Soul Body.
  • The first Mega Man Star Force game pokes with the concept, and by the third game things like this are all over the place.
  • The elevators in all the 2D Metroid games. They're just a glowing platform in a tube, and if the power goes out or something, said platform just disappears.
    • Making things even more confusing, in Metroid Fusion, the power is indeed cut... while Samus is standing on one. Oddly, she doesn't fall like you would anticipate. Apparently the future averts No OSHA Compliance. The Federation elevators may be technology that's different from but similar in superficial (read: game graphics) appearance to the Chozo elevators on Zebes.
    • It's possible they're actually solid, and not just light, but merely glowy. Metroid Prime has clearly solid elevators.
  • In Ōkami, you can literally swim in stardust, or fragments of light, at the start of the game. You even need to draw it with Rejuvenation first. Later on, at the Point of No Return, you cross a rainbow bridge into the Ark of Yamato.
  • Overwatch directly states that hard light technology is used in Symmetra's abilities. Vishkar Corporation - Symmetra's benefactors - applies hard light for construction of entire cities. Lucio's skates are also told to be made of hard light in the Visual Source Book that comes with the Collector's Edition.
  • PlanetSide 2 has a few hard light bridges, most notably at Heyoka Chemical Lab. Friendlies can go over the bridge fine, enemies fall straight through the bridge into the moat of deadly chemicals. It's pretty entertaining to hack the enemy bridge console while they're standing on it, causing them to suddenly fall through. The Holographic armor included in the second anniversary bundle is a (purely cosmetic) set of extra hard light armor plating for soldiers.
  • The Infi-nut from Plants vs. Zombies 2: It's About Time is an Energy Being Wall-nut spawned from a projector. Like other plants, it can physically block zombies and be eaten, but it will periodically regenerate itself to full health as long as the projector exists.
  • Portal 2 features a gameplay element called the Hard Light Bridge: basically a projected flat surface that flows straight out from its emitter until it hits an obstacle. Naturally, these can be redirected through portals to gain access to unreachable areas, block turret fire, or intercept objects.
    GLaDOS: If you rubbed your cheek on it, it would feel like the sun, shining on your face. It would also set your hair on fire, so don't actually do it.
  • Ratchet & Clank character Dr. Nefarious uses hard light holograms in the third game, as does Ace Hardlight in the fourth. Ratchet himself employs Hard Light armor in A Crack In Time.
  • The Subterfuge node in Ring Runner: Flight of the Sages usually produces holograms, but can also create constructions solid enough to block projectiles or explode.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog:
  • Stellaris has a production upgrade tech called "holographic casting", implying it involves creating molds out of hard light to cast metals in.
  • In Sunrider, the ancient Ryuvians had such technology. This is best shown when the Seraphim, an ancient Ryuvian Ryder, creates two (actually three) holographic duplicates of itself which all prove to be just as solid—and deadly—as the real thing. Veniczar Arcadius also seems to possess this technology, as he attended his own wedding ceremony via hologram yet was still able to shoot and kill the father of the bride.
  • Fury Technology in Super Robot Wars J; materializing energy into a crystalline state. Coustwell Brachium ups the ante by actually generating temporary clones of itself.
  • Shielding from many FPS games (shield belts from Unreal Tournament, "active defense" from Battlefield 2142) takes this form, usually to allow players to see and be seen, but not shot from outside (even when laser weapons are used).
  • Some Floating Platforms in Venineth are a ring of light. The elevators are technically invisible floating platforms, but they emit light wherever they touch another object, including your marble.
  • The Witness: The bridges inside of the mountain.

    Web Animation 
  • Hard Light is available as a type of Dust in RWBY, however it's extremely rare and hard to come by. So far, the only character's with access to Hard Light Dust are either from Atlas or named Velvet (whose dad has connections in Atlas).

  • Gunnerkrigg Court:
    • Dr. Disaster's simulations combine holograms with tactile feedback suits.
    • The glass-eyed men are able to manipulate matter, making Hard Darkness.
  • The Boscis in Banished! take pride in their Hard Light technology, which is indistinguishable from an ordinary person, er, bird. Except, of course, they can't be attacked.
  • In Life of Riley, hard light generators are used in the battle against evil Dan as DDR platforms. It's... rather complicated.
  • In The Non-Adventures of Wonderella, the heroine meets a hard light replica of herself — who is merely depressed because she can't drink. She eventually gets her kicks by mooning the city.
  • In Grrl Power, the alien spaceship commander Cora has hard-light-projectors built into her prostheses to create changeable, tangible clothing.
  • In Heist!, Geist the protagonist steals a hard light generator from its current owner (on whose behalf he had recently stolen it from someone else) in order to infiltrate the satellite headquarters of a Darker and Edgier Justice League Expy.
  • Lightbringer can create hard light as a superpower and uses it to thwart criminals. Most amusing was the creation and use of a hard light trampoline.
  • In the post-reboot Analog & D-Pad editions of Ctrl+Alt+Del Lucas (as the superhero D-Pad) can create hard light projectiles in the shape of directional arrows.
  • The titular Layered Metropolis of Leve L is partly built of it. Tramway tracks are pure Hard Light.

    Web Original 
  • In the Whateley Universe, there's a character codenamed Fubar (his real body is horribly mutated and he can't survive outside of a tank of purified water). He appears to people using astral projection, and uses psychokinesis to provide the appearance of a physical presence. He's very adept at it, but he's had decades to practice.
  • In an Homage to Star Trek, the League of Intergalactic Cosmic Champions has a "holographic" doctor.
  • The Mercury Men are apparently composed of this, as well as Jack Yaeger's bullets.
  • Used a lot in The Academy of Superheroes Universe.
  • At one point in Funny Business, Jeannette makes ambient sunlight solid in order to stop a lightning bolt from striking herself and her friend. What she didn't take into account is that this makes all light everywhere solid, and so the whole earth would have been crushed by ever-depositing layers of sunlight if she had not pressed the Reset Button real quick.
  • Treknologic: The Crew's ship, the USS Relativity, interior is just one giant holodeck.
  • In one installment of What If? Randall Munroe investigates the possibility of a radar gun exerting enough force on a car to stop it. Not visible light but close enough.

    Western Animation 
  • In one episode of The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron, Boy Genius, Jimmy has a holographic butler. He explains that the butler can interact with objects as a result of being made of solid light.
  • In Amphibia, the full power of the Gems allow Anne, Sasha, and Marcy to create energy constructs to use as weapons.
  • In Code Lyoko, the Polymorphic Specters (and the translated heroes in Season 4) are also a form of Hard Light. This is confirmed by the William Clone's self-description in episode "Down to Earth":
    William Clone: I'm a digitally-generated random polymorphic energy field controlled by a basic non-evolving behavioral program.
  • In the first episode of the Danger Mouse relaunch, Colonel K's hologram is mistaken for the real Colonel K and captured by the baddies. At the end of the episode, the narrator questions how this is possible, and DM mutters something about hard light, only for the narrator to continue listing all the other things about the hologram that don't make sense.
  • DC Animated Universe:
    • In Superman: The Animated Series, Luminus masters making holograms feel solid by manipulating electromagnetic forces, allowing him to almost kill a depowered Superman with hologram copies of himself.
      Superman: Are your holograms supposed to scare me?
      Luminus: Holograms are made of light. So are lasers.
    • In Justice League, Luminus escapes from prison, and uses his technology to surround Flash with holograms. Flash, used to this trick with Mirror Master, thinks that they're just holograms and apparently doesn't fall for it, except, as those who've watched STAS would know, they're pretty solid. Ass kicking ensues. This doesn't explain why his holograms react to being punched by falling or flying across the room, as this means they must have been programmed to do that, for some reason. Otherwise, it should have been either a No-Sell (even from Superman) or result in the hand passing through the hologram.
  • The holographic training simulator in the Hall of Justice in DC Super Friends runs on this. Things go bad when Joker decides to take over the home base while Superman and Batman are visiting it.
  • One episode of Flash Gordon (1979) has a floating city that makes liberal use of hard light projectors.
  • Depending on the Writer the holograms in Jem are this. They can be touched and interacted with most of the time, though other times Jem has to be careful not to let anyone too near her or her disguise will be ruined.
  • The Legend of Vox Machina: Pike can turn her light magic into solid objects, like a mace and shields.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • Liquid rainbows exist. They're edible, but ridiculously spicy, and sticky enough to be used as war paint.
    • In the episode "Power Ponies" in which the main characters get pulled into a comic book, Rarity, as the Power Pony "Radiance", uses Attack Constructs which are objects created out of pure magic energy generated from her Bracelets.
  • The Owl House: The show is somewhat inconsistent on this, but illusion spells do appear to have some level of physical presence. That said, even the smallest amount of force is enough to dispel them.
  • In The Powerpuff Girls (2016), the girls are now capable of producing and fighting with hard light constructs.
  • In Rollbots, Botch has a Hard Light Grappling-Hook Pistol.
  • South Park: The celebrity holograms featured in the episodes "#REHASH" and "#HappyHolograms" are a partial example, likely due to Rule of Funny. It's stated and shown multiple times that they can't be shot and people pass through them, however they themselves can shoot, operate vehicles and interact with people (including an implied sex scene).
  • Star Trek: Lower Decks: In "Envoys", the transdimensional being is ostensibly composed of pure energy, yet Ensign Mariner is able to grab hold of it like it's a squishy ball.
  • Steven Universe:
    • Gems and Gem monsters have gemstones for Gem Hearts and the rest of their bodies are made of light, as are their weapons and other constructs. They can still interact like corporeal beings, but whenever they're 'killed' their body bursts into a cloud of light, leaving their gem behind—if left unbubbled, the gem will (eventually, the process takes time) project a new body.
    • Holo-Pearl is also capable of holding physical objects such as swords and umbrellas, and, when sent flying by an attack, rolls across the ground in a very solid manner. Despite this, she also displays visual glitching and, as her name indicates, is simply a projection from Pearl's gem. She simply has to be solid to serve as Pearl's sparring partner.
    • Some time after the rebellion thousands of years ago, the Homeworld Gems developed "destabilizers", weapons that can instantly destroy a Gem's hard light body. Fortunately for the heroes, these weapons are effectively glorified joy buzzers to organic beings like Steven.
    • When Steven is separated from his Gem in "Change Your Mind", the Gem generates a pink Hard Light version of Steven around itself. Unlike most of the other Gems' bodies, "Pink Steven" actually looks like he's made of light.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1987) had an episode where Shredder created a couple of "solid holograms" to fight the Ninja Turtles.
  • Doctor Light in Teen Titans (2003). He met his match in this trope's polar opposite: Raven's hard shadows. The soul-crushing abyss within her cloak they dragged him into because she was so pissed she tapped into her demon heritage, but that's another story.
  • Tankor in Transformers: Beast Machines used a hard light hologram as part of a scheme to fake his own death.
  • The armor and sword conjured by the Amulet in Trollhunters are made of condensed daylight, making them especially effective against Trolls.

    Real Life 
  • The book Secret Weapons of World War II reports one non-scientist military type suggesting that research be done on "solidifying" searchlight beams to grab planes and smash them into the ground.
  • Very slightly Truth in Television: light does exert a certain amount of force on solid objects. This is why engineers and science fiction writers have come up with the concept of Solar Sails.
    • The Japanese IKAROS probe is propelled by a solar sail, providing the Solar Sail page image.
    • Radiometers, at one time, were thought to work this way: when put in energetic enough light they spin, supposedly because the dark sides absorbs the energy and momentum of the light while the light colored side reflects the energy and momentum. The reflector has a 2x momentum change while the absorber has a 1x momentum change. Though that is true, the spinning is not caused by light pressure, but rather by light heating the dark side of the panel the good old-fashioned way. Thus warmer than the light side, the dark side heats the air molecules in the bulb a little more than the light side, thus they kick away a little harder, and the cumulative effect is a little more push on the dark side, thus driving it as a little spinner. It's not in a vacuum, either, but rather a gas at a special pressure. The light pressure hypothesis arose from the erroneous belief that the early radiometers were entirely evacuated; they were not, and there just barely enough gas left to create the effect.
    • Powerful enough lasers can exert a significant force on objects placed in their path.
      • Option 1: build a huge laser powerful enough to beat up The Flash. Option 2: simply get an industrial CO2 laser and burn holes into The Flash. The radiation of CO2 lasers is invisible, so he won't even see it coming. In Real Life it is, however, usually considered harmful enough to use lasers (or even bright enough regular light) to simply blind a person. Victims will, when moving at speeds similar to that of The Flash (motorists, pilots) often crash into things.
    • Optical Tweezers apply the force from a laser to manipulate very small objects.
    • Technically nothing slightly about it; from a physics perspective there isn't really any difference between kinetic energy and heat. Lasers melt things because they fire photons at the target, which then smack into its atoms and transfer their (tiny) kinetic energy to said atoms, causing them to vibrate (bounce around) faster and with more force, which is heat. Things are hot because the atoms that make them up are vibrating more quickly than cold things and they keep bouncing off the atoms that make up you and transferring kinetic energy to them. Of course this is a long, long way from true Hard Light, but strictly speaking light is in fact an actual physical force.
  • Laser Cutting, through solid metal.
  • Photonic molecules are a recently discovered form of matter made entirely of light.

Alternative Title(s): Holodeck


Rose's Scabbard

Pearl recalls her past with Rose Quartz.

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