Giant pixels pasted onto tanks can now sense the general pattern of infrared energy, or heat, distributed around a bucolic mountain meadow or windy desert and camouflage the vehicle accordingly, so heat-spying eyes will be none the wiser.
Such adaptive cloaking has been on the wishlist of world governments for decades, but most attempts so far have been limited by cost and technical problems, like not being able to change the cloak fast enough to be convincing on a moving vehicle or failing to stand up to enemy fire. There aren’t a lot of details available about this implementation, called Adaptiv and developed by BAE Systems in part for the Swedish government, but a press release from the company says that not only can the pixels adapt quickly, they use relatively little energy and can serve as armor as well. Tests in July showed that the tiles could make a tank go invisible entirely or impersonate a 4×4 vehicle, at least from an infrared scanner’s point of view, and the company’s engineers are looking into using the pixels to cloak vehicles in other areas of the electromagnetic spectrum, like the visible-light bit, as well. Check out the above video for some chilling footage of the system in action.
[Update: Though it should be clear once the video begins, this is a promotional piece from BAE—we don’t know under what conditions it was filmed, whether it was digitally enhanced, and so on. So take it with a grain of salt.]