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Chameleon Robot Changes Color as It Moves; New Military Camouflage On the Horizon? [VIDEO]

Feb 12, 2016 03:14 PM EST
Chameleon Robot
Robotic chameleon changes color to match wall it's passing by.
(Photo : American Chemical Society )

Chameleons are one of the many animals known for their deceptive coloration, where their body color rapidly changes to blend with their surroundings as they move. Now, a team of researchers from China and the U.S. have harnessed the animal's covert disguise to create a bio-inspired chameleon-like robot. The hope, they say, is to one day improve the "static" camouflage military personnel use in the field.

"Active camouflage," as the team's innovative model has been called, was demonstrated using a mechanical chameleon fitted with "fish-scale-like" color patches that correspond to specialized plasmonic cells, which reflect or absorb different waves of light.

Lead author Guoping Wang of Wuhan University, China, and his colleagues tested this by sitting the robotic chameleon on top of a rolling platform and passing it by a wall painted with red, green and blue sections. As the robot reached each block of color, its body patches changed color to match each. So far, however, the team's chameleon is only able to match these three primary colors.

"An ideal mechanical chameleon will be equipped with miniature color sensors to sense the color patterns of the environment," researchers explained in their study. "The acquired information from the camera will be automatically analyzed and delivered to individual color patches, changing the chameleon's body appearance accordingly."

With advanced technology, researchers hope to create a more adaptable robot able to detect any color.

"This would fully merge the mechanical chameleon into the surroundings," Wang said, adding that if such advanced sensors can be miniaturized, the same principle could be used to develop adaptive camouflage systems for use in military vehicles and body armor.

Their work was recently published in the journal ACS Nano.


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