South Korean engineers have developed a new and relatively inexpensive active camouflage technology using heat-sensitive pigments.
Developers from South Korea have demonstrated a prototype of a robot with active camouflage. It automatically and in "real time" takes color depending on the surface on which it moves, like a real chameleon. And although so far the system can only be called the first, primitive demonstrator of technology, in the future it may find wide application - primarily in military technology.
Real living chameleons (and other natural masters of active camouflage) change color by controlling the distribution of pigments in their skin cells. However, it is extremely difficult and expensive to replicate this effective mechanism in nonliving systems. Therefore, Seung Hwan Ko and his colleagues from Seoul National University found a simpler solution, which they write about in an article published in the journal Nature Communications.
Instead of full-fledged video cameras, their robot uses simple color sensors. Their signal is transmitted to thin silver electrodes, which go to the "shell" of the robot, covered with several layers containing thermosensitive liquid crystals. When heated, the electrodes cause them to change color, adjusting to the color of the surface on which the robot moves. Due to the thoughtful distribution of pigments in the shell, even the pattern on it can be imitated.
The obvious problem with this prototype is its sensitivity to temperature. The demonstration, shown in the video released by scientists, takes place under indoor conditions. However, heat or cold outside can affect the behavior of heat-sensitive pigments, and to counteract this, the system will likely have to be complicated.
Scientists hope that improving pigment management algorithms will help solve the problem. Perhaps artificial intelligence will allow them to adapt their behavior to different temperatures, as well as better simulate complex surface patterns.