Scientists at Seoul National University have developed a soft chameleon robot that can change its color in real-time to match its background.

In an article published in the journal Nature Communications, the group describes their layered skin design and possible uses for it.

In the animal kingdom, many species change their appearance so that predators cannot see them. The chameleon is perhaps the most famous example. The famous lizard can change its skin color to blend in with its environment. In the new work, the researchers tried to match this ability with a chameleon robot.

Demonstration of a chameleon-style soft robot in no camouflage and no camouflage modes. Credit: Seung Hwan Ko

To create the robot, scientists started with a layer of skin made from liquid ink. Its color changes when a small amount of heat is applied. This caused the ink particles to form into spiral structures that reflected light at specific wavelengths. Different amounts of heat created structures of different sizes, which made it possible to display almost any desired color. The team then created a second layer of skin made up of a network of heating strips. The researchers then applied the skin to a chameleon model they had created.

They later added special color sensors to the belly and circuits to the inside of the robot. The information received by the device was transmitted to the skin heating system so that the color changes depending on the environment.

Researchers have demonstrated the robot’s ability to change color on demand by posting a video in which it crawls across a panel of colored areas.