This High-Tech Material Can Change Shape Like an Octopus

iStock
iStock

Octopuses can do some pretty amazing things with their skin, like “see” light, resist the pull of their own sticky suction cups, and blend in seamlessly with their surroundings. That last part now has the U.S. Army interested, as Co.Design reports. The military branch’s research office has funded the development a new type of morphing material that works like an octopus’s dynamic skin.

The skin of an octopus is covered in small, muscular bumps called papillae that allow them to change textures in a fraction of a second. Using this mechanism, octopuses can mimic coral, rocks, and even other animals. The new government-funded research—conducted by scientists at Cornell University—produced a device that works using a similar principle.

“Technologies that use stretchable materials are increasingly important, yet we are unable to control how they stretch with much more sophistication than inflating balloons,” the scientists write in their study, recently published in the journal Science. “Nature, however, demonstrates remarkable control of stretchable surfaces.”

The membrane of the stretchy, silicone material lays flat most of the time, but when it’s inflated with air, it can morph to form almost any 3D shape. So far, the technology has been used to imitate rocks and plants.

You can see the synthetic skin transform from a two-dimensional pad to 3D models of objects in the video below:

It’s easy to see how this feature could be used in military gear. A soldier’s suit made from material like this could theoretically provide custom camouflage for any environment in an instant. Like a lot of military technology, it could also be useful in civilian life down the road. Co.Design writer Jesus Diaz brings up examples like buttons that appear on a car's dashboard only when you need them, or a mixing bowl that rises from the surface of the kitchen counter while you're cooking.

Even if we can mimic the camouflage capabilities of cephalopods, though, other impressive superpowers, like controlling thousands of powerful suction cups or squeezing through spaces the size of a cherry tomato, are still the sole domain of the octopus. For now.

[h/t Co.Design]

The Pope's Swiss Guards Are Now Outfitted in 3D-Printed Helmets

Franco Origlia/Getty Images
Franco Origlia/Getty Images

The Popemobile isn't the only innovative piece of gear used by the Pope and his posse. Though they still look traditional, the outfits worn by the Swiss Guard now include a high-tech piece of headwear designed by the 3D-printing design team at HP, Fast Company reports.

Members of the Swiss Guard, the Vatican's private army, wore the same helmet for more than 500 years. The steel hat is branded with the crest of Pope Julius II (the "mercenary pope" and the guard's founder) and embellished with a red feathered crest for special events.

Though it made for an iconic look, the original helmet had some practical issues. After baking in the Sun for hours, the metal would heat up and burn the guard's heads. Steel also isn't the most comfortable material to be wearing on your head all day, and because it rusts so easily, it doesn't make sense to wear it in the rain.

The updated helmets from HP solve these problems while maintaining the style of the old headgear. They're made from PVC plastic, which means they're lighter and resistant to UV rays. They're also water-resistant and don't need to be polished constantly to prevent rusting.

The hats are even more affordable than their more traditional predecessors. It costs $1000 and takes 14 hours to 3D-print each PVC helmet, while it took $2000 and 100 hours to forge a single steel one.

Interested in learning about more Papal upgrades? Here are some of the stylish rides the Pope used to get around in recent decades.

[h/t Fast Company]

This Smart Ink Poster Changes According to the Weather

Typified
Typified

With detailed weather data available at a glance on smartphones or on the Weather Channel 24 hours a day, checking the forecast has never been easier. But Typified, a Melbourne, Australia-based company, believes that some people would rather hang their weather forecast on the wall than look at their phone or television. Typified is currently enjoying a successful round of funding on Kickstarter for its Weather Poster, a mountable “screen” that depicts current weather conditions.

Look closely, though, and you’ll see it’s not really a screen at all. Instead, Typified is using paper and digital ink to create a dynamic display that can react to the changing weather with a Wi-Fi connection.

The silk-screen printed poster has a simple layout, with three weather icons—rain and snow, cloudy, or sunny—that correspond to four-hour intervals throughout the day. Using input from a tiny built-in computer, the ink in the icons changes color from blue to white to indicate current conditions and the forecast.

Typified is betting that people aren’t looking for another high-tech display for their home or office—the poster, which emits no light at all, is unobtrusive, and lightweight enough (3.4 pounds) to be hung on a wall with adhesive strips.

Buy one for yourself on Kickstarter, where a pledge of $135 earns supporters one Weather Poster and two years of free weather forecasts (subsequently $7.50 per year). The campaign runs through March 4, and the poster is set to be shipped to backers in July 2019.

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