Interactive Squid Skin

June 13, 2013

Interactive Squid App

Squid and other cephalopods possess the hypnotic ability to rapidly change the color of their skin in order to communicate and blend in to their environment. A matrix of pigment-containing cells known as chromatophores expand and contract in unison to produce these shifts in color. Each chromatophore is stretched by invisible muscles to increase the cell’s visible surface area and corresponding hue.

Backyard Brains’ Insane in the Chromatophores experiment demonstrates this effect by stimulating the nerves of a squid with electrical signals from an iPod playing Cypress Hill’s Insane in the Membrane. Inspired by this experiment, I approximated a system of expanding chromatophores using Processing. The initial version of this project was developed for motion input from a Microsoft Kinect. See the video below for a demonstration of the skin reacting to a person’s motion.

This project has also been adapted for the web using Canvas, JavaScript, and Processing.js with the mouse as a stimulus source. Go to Interactive Squid Skin. Click and move your mouse to expand the chromatophores. This app works best in Google Chrome.

Resources used in this project:
Voronoi JavaScript Implementation by Raymond Hill
Kinect Processing Library by Daniel Shiffman