A robot that can change colour to either blend in with or stand out from its surroundings has been created by researchers at Harvard University. It was inspired by the camouflage skills found in many sea creatures including octopuses, cuttlefish, and squid.
In a study published in the journal Science the researchers show how simple microfluidic networks allow to change the color, contrast, pattern, apparent shape, luminescence, and surface temperature of soft robots made from polymers and flexible reinforcing sheets. For now, the colored solutions injected into the microfluidic networks were all prepared manually. The color of these networks can be changed simultaneously in the visible and infrared — a capability that biological organisms do not have. These strategies begin to imitate the functions, although not the anatomies, of color-changing animals.
The robot on man-made background. See if you can spot all five robots in panel F.
The robot on natural background:
The micro-fluidic networks developed by the researchers: