How E-readers Stack Up Against Octopus Skin (Infographic)

Infographic: how e-readers and octopi create images
E-reader makers and octopi are both experts in creating images on a surface.
(Image: © by Karl Tate, Infographics Artist)

Over millions of years, animals such as the chameleon, cuttlefish and cephalopod have developed adaptive coloration – changing skin color – for use as camouflage or communication. Today, makers of electronic devices are developing e-paper screens that display color in ambient light (that is, not backlit). Let’s see where biology holds an advantage over technology.

 

COLOR: Electrokinetic displays under development reproduce color quality equal to newspaper printing standards. Cephalopods cannot reproduce as wide a range, but then again, evolution did not require them to.

ADVANTAGE: E-READER

 

DARK STATE: Displays can now adjust to reflection values of 5-10 percent. Cephalopod skin can adjust to dark brown but not black.

ADVANTAGE: E-READER

 

INTEGRATION AND SOPHISTICATION: Cephalopods, with their intelligence and complexity, far outperform any electronic display device. 

ADVANTAGE: OCTOPUS

 

ENVIRONMENTAL ADAPTATION: Color adaptation to the environment is a fact in cephalopods, but unproven in technology. 

ADVANTAGE: OCTOPUS

 

REQUIRED ENERGY: Both nature and technology consume low power, but 

animals can replenish their own energy while technology cannot.

ADVANTAGE: OCTOPUS

 

SPEED: Technology’s speed of adaptation far exceeds the tens of milliseconds requrired for biological vision systems to adapt.

ADVANTAGE: E-READER

 

SURFACE TEXTURE: Cephalopods can crinkle their skin to mimic a variety of textures, providing additional light scattering and shadowing. By comparison, an on-screen display of texture is flat and fake-looking.

ADVANTAGE: OCTOPUS

 

FLEXIBILITY: Cephalopod skin is expandable and flexible, but flexible display screens remain in the development lab and are not available to the public.

ADVANTAGE: OCTOPUS

 

SCALABILITY: To be considered scalable, a display must be increased in size with a low number of defects. Rigid display panels are manufactured in sizes of 100 inches or more, but flexible displays have remained under 10 inches.

ADVANTAGE: OCTOPUS