Researchers at the University of Bristol have announced they've developed of artificial cephalopod chromatophores -- the specialized cells that allow squid and octopi to instantly change their skin color -- a breakthrough that could lead to real life active camouflage. The team employed a pliable smart material called electroactive dielectric elastomer to create artificial skin. And as you can see in the video below, they programmed the cells to sense what their neighbors were doing (either expanding or contracting) and then do the same. Right now, the cells can only open and close operate linearly. However, the researchers hope to further develop the technology so that future iterations are able to mimic the complex patterns that cephalopods actually produce.
"Our ultimate goal is to create artificial skin that can mimic fast acting active camouflage and be used for smart clothing such as cloaking suits and dynamic illuminated clothing," Aaron Fishman, Visiting Fellow in Engineering Mathematics, said. "The cloaking suit could be used to blend into a variety of environments, such as in the wild. It could also be used for signalling purposes, for example search and rescue operations when people who are in danger need to stand out." The team published their study "Hiding the squid: patterns in artificial cephalopod skin" in the Journal Interface on June 10th.
[Image Credit: University of Bristol]