Reptiles and robotics converge as scientists at China's Wuhan University have developed a chameleon capable of blending into the background using an armor of color-changing screens.
Demonstrated in a video produced by New Scientist (opens in new tab), the lenticulated lizard is pulled on a set of wheels past three colored walls, blending in with each like something from a Halo game.
A chameleon, which is actually just a 3D-printed model rather than a full-functioning animatronic, demonstrates the color-changing screens affixed to its body by altering the charge to the nanodome-covered screen to change plasmons.
What does that mean? Well, nanodomes - created from tiny pinpricks filled with gold - can contain plasmons, which are ripples of electrons that are created by altering the charge to the screen, controlled by a sensor built into the chameleon.
Plasmons alter the way a surface reflects and absorbs light. Since the way light bounces off of a surface or is absorbed is the means by which the human eye determines color and value, altering these properties can allow a surface to change color without having to use bulky electric screens.
Guoping Wang, one of the lead researchers on the project, believes that further development on the project could have significant use in the military.
"Despite tremendous efforts, the camouflage methods under study today are mostly derived from pattern painting dating back to the 1940s'," said the official study, published by ACS Nano.
The report adds that bending light is "a more sophisticated approach" to obscuring subjects in place of fatigues or camouflaged paint jobs.
While able to change color on the fly, Wuhan U's prototype is currently restricted to the three colors of light - red, blue and green. Development on the chameleon's color range in on the way, but for now it's only capable of blending in at Pee-wee's Playhouse.