Inspired by squids and octopuses, scientists created a rubbery robot that can change colors and hide itself from infrared cameras. (Photo : Harvard )
Inspired by squids and octopuses, scientists in America have created a rubbery robot that can change colors and hide itself from infrared cameras.
The project, supported by the Pentagon, is the latest of the silicone-based robots after a rubbery robotic fly was introduced last year.
Harvard University researcher Steve Morin was involved in the experiment and said a reason they created it was after watching a video of a squid changing colors on the internet.
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"They are truly fascinating, inspiring animals. We asked if we could replicate some of the functions of the squid, or simpler animals with simpler strategies for camouflage, with these robotic systems," said Morin, who noted it took a year to develop the robot.
For the four-armed robot to alter its color, a separate layer was created in which a stream of different liquid dyes can transfer in and out. This method was done instead of pumping air in and out of the body.
Talking to InnovationNewsDaily, Morin said it was surprising to see "simple" micro-channels can be effective in providing the robot camouflage.
"One does not have to mimic the background to effectively disguise the robot ... simple colors, patterns and shapes can be very effective at camouflage, without mimicking the almost-unbelievable sophistication of some living organisms," said Morin.
Researchers have also made it possible to adjust the temperature of the dyes, further providing the robot to blend in certain environments.
But to make the robot move, air is needed. The robotic arms are controlled by driving compressed air through another series of channels.
"They can go into places where people don't want to go because they are too dangerous - disaster relief," said fellow Harvard University Chemist George Whitesides. "They can be assistants to humans in some procedures - for example, perhaps surgery, where manipulating tissue may require some delicacy. They are light, so they can be carried easily in deflated form, and move across soft or unstable terrain."
The scientists hope the robot can provide fellow researchers information and test theories on how animals change disguises and their displays.
The findings of the study will be published on the Aug. 17 edition of the journal Science.