Research Press Release

Robotics: Chameleon-inspired soft robot mimics its background

Nature Communications

August 11, 2021

A chameleon-inspired soft robot that can change colour in real time to match its background is reported in Nature Communications. The research may have implications for next-generation wearable camouflage technology.

Artificial camouflage is based on imitating the natural camouflage present in the living environment and has been observed in a number of species, such as the chameleon. A prerequisite for artificial camouflage devices is the ability to convey a wide range of colouration that can be controlled and changed on demand. However, this has been difficult to achieve due to the complexity of the system requirements and the high spatial frequencies needed for the device to mimic the living environment.

Seung Hwan Ko and colleagues apply a new strategy to the development of artificial camouflage using integrated thermochromic liquid crystal layers with vertically-stacked, patterned silver nanowire networks. Together with colour sensors and feedback control systems, the authors fabricated Artificial Chameleon Skin and applied it to a soft-bodied robot. The authors demonstrate that the robot can detect the local background colour and is able to change and transition its colour to match its surroundings in real time.

Further research is needed to develop efficient recognition and expression of high-resolution surface texture, which the authors suggest may be attainable with advances in signal processing and data-driven science.


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