What Does an Octopus Have in Common With a Kindle? Surprisingly, a Lot
Let's think, for a moment, about cephalopods and e-readers. That's right: Let's compare an octopus to a Kindle. One is soft, smart, and lives under water. The other is hard, square, land-loving, and though it's memory is impressive, not particularly intelligent. But that's the boring, obvious, stuff. What's interesting is all the two have in common.
Cephalopods and e-readers, it turns out, share a lot in terms of how they change colors and patterns. One, obviously, is doing this on skin as a means of camouflage and communication while the other is displaying information inorder to entertain humans. The process, according to University of Cincinnati researchers, is surprisingly similar.
A new study titled "Biological vs. Electronic Adaptive Coloration: How Can One Inform the Other?" explains how cephalopods use subtle changes in their skin's pigment to absorb or reflect available light and in doing so, achieve a wide range of colors and patterns. Devices that utilize e-Paper, like the Kindle, use electrical fields in much the same way to move pigments and generate "emissive" light.
Across many dimensions, millions of years of evolution outscore human research and development dramatically. In terms of energy consumption, scalability, and texture, cephalopod biology is far more advanced than current e-Paper technology. The human tech does have a few advantages, however. Pigment changes on e-Paper are faster, for example, and can achieve a more pure "black."
Though the use of pigment was surprisingly similar between biological and technological systems, the findings indicate that there are a great many ways to achieve the same—or a very similar—end result.
The task now, as the study's title suggests, is to learn a few tricks from nature to improve the performance and efficiency of e-Reader technology.