Invisible Warriors: The Future of Camo

Clothing that adapts to hide you whatever your surroundings are

Camouflage works by confusing the brain. Disruptive patterns obscure a form’s outline, making objects less likely to stand out. But camo has a weakness: No pattern works for every environment. Special Operations Apps, a software design firm in Wilmington, N.C., has developed a process to make site-specific camouflage.

The software combines photographs of a given location, taken by satellites, drones or reconnaissance teams, into customized, terrain-specific patterns that can be printed directly on a garment. Because the pattern is made from images taken at various focal lengths, it also inhibits depth perception, making it more difficult for the brain to process camouflaged surfaces into a single object. For now, use of site-specific camouflage will be limited to Special Operations units. And it could be short-lived.

Special Operations Apps recently filed a patent on an “adaptive” material that consists of a vinyl substrate, a flexible image display that could adjust to a given environment, and thermoelectric panels that could modify a soldier’s heat signature.

Read more about the invisible warriors of the future: The engineering breakthroughs that will make everything from planes to subs to soldiers…disappear.