Indian-American researcher Debashis Chanda from University of Central Florida (UCF) has developed a nature-inspired technique for creating the world's first full-colour, flexible thin-film reflective display.
Simply put, if someone at a wedding reception is wearing the same dress as you, the technology can help you switch yours to a different colour in the blink of an eye.
"All manmade displays like LCD and LED are rigid, brittle and bulky. But you look at an octopus. He can create colour on the skin itself covering a complex body contour and it is stretchable and flexible," said professor Chanda.
That was the motivation: Can we take some inspiration from biology and create a skin-like display?
Chanda was able to change the colour on an ultra-thin nano-structured surface by applying voltage.
The new method does not need its own light source. Rather, it reflects the ambient light around it.
"Your camouflage, your clothing, your fashion items - all of that could change," he said.
Traditional displays like those on a mobile phone require a light source, filters and a glass plates.
But animals like chameleons, octopuses and squids are born with thin, flexible, colour-changing displays that do not need a light source - their skin.
Chanda's display is only about few microns thick, compared to a 100-micron-thick human hair.
Such an ultra-thin display can be applied to flexible materials like plastics and synthetic fabrics.
The research has major implications for existing electronics like televisions, computers and mobile devices that have displays considered thin by today's standards but monstrously bulky in comparison.
The potentially bigger impact could be whole new categories of displays that have never been thought of.
"This is a cheap way of making displays on a flexible substrate with full-colour generation."
The research is detailed in the journal Nature Communications.