A team of researchers has created the world’s first soft robot chameleon that can change colors in real-time to fit its surroundings At Seoul National University. Nature Communications released an article on the group’s multi-layer skin design and its potential applications.
To build their robot, the researchers began with a skin layer comprised of liquid ink that could be manipulated to change color by adding a little bit of heat to the material. As a result, the particles in the ink formed helical shapes that reflected certain wavelengths of light. Temperature-dependent structures were constructed, allowing almost any color to be shown. The researchers then constructed a second skin layer consisting of a network of heating strips to protect the first layer from the cold. Following that, the researchers put the skin on an artificial chameleon model.
The researchers also fitted color sensors to the robot’s belly, along with electronics, so that it could crawl forward, detect colors with the underbelly sensors, analyze the information it got from the sensors, and then transmit signals to a heating network. To allow the robot to alter not only its skin color but also the pattern colors it showed on its skin, researchers attached predesigned color patterns to the robot.
The researchers posted a video of the robot crawling across a panel with different colored parts to illustrate the robot’s ability to change color on command. As the robot crawled, it appeared as though it was progressively filling up with different colored ink. In addition to military uses, they believe that their robot may be utilized in fashion and art displays.