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Dazzle camouflage

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 27, 2018

In a new video for Vox, Phil Edwards talks about one of my favorite low-tech technologies: dazzle camouflage. Instead of trying to hide warships with paint the color of the ever-changing sky or sea, dazzle camouflage aimed to confuse the enemy by disguising the silhouettes and headings of ships.

World War I ships faced a unique problem. The u-boat was a new threat at the time, and its torpedoes were deadly. That led artist Norman Wilkinson to come up with dazzle camouflage (sometimes called “razzle dazzle camouflage”). The idea was to confuse u-boats about a ship’s course, rather than try to conceal its presence. In doing so, dazzle camouflage could keep torpedoes from hitting the boat — and that and other strategies proved a boon in World War I.

More recently, this strategy has been used on people’s faces to thwart facial recognition and on Cristiano Ronaldo’s football cleats to confuse opponents as which way he’s moving his feet.