Intel remotely fired up the audience today at the IDF R&D Forum Keynote by wirelessly powering a light bulb from a distance of 2 feet away. Using a signal generator and a power amplifier, wireless power transfer was effectively showcased by Alanson Sample from Intel Research, Seattle. Transmitting 60 watts at 75% efficiency, the technology lit up a small light bulb perched upon a set of odd-looking coils.
Wireless electricity is something I’m very excited about — and I’ve written about Wi-Tricity several times, too.
Personally, I think it’s a game changer on many levels.
The guys that figure this kind of technology out, making it practical over long distance, would solve a lot of problems and free up dwindling resources, such as copper wiring as just one example.
Based on what I know about wireless electricity (and I’d be happy if someone more in the know would be kind enough to fill in the blanks), it seems to function much like microwaves, in that it relies on line-of-sight transmission and reception — any large obstacles would block the transmission of the energy.
I’m pretty sure there’ll also be “last mile” situations, just as there is with broadband coverage here in Britain (where high-capacity networks fall short of certain rural areas), so copper cabling won’t just up and vanish over night.
There’s something satisfyingly Heath Robinson about the contraption Intel rolled out, which reminds me of some the earlier contraptions devised my Nikola Tesla, arguably the “man who invented the 20th century”, and the originator of wireless electricity as we understand it.
Intel seem to be talking up wireless powering and recharging for laptop computers, but for a company with Intel’s formidable influence and technical know-how, should they nail this technology, they could well create an entirely new class of product for a totally new market.
Given that Intel and Apple are now happy bedfellows, I’d love to see some life breathed into my Apple PowerShare concept:
“What if Apple was to build inductive coils into their MacBook and MacBook Pro line, as well as the Mac Mini and the iMac? Imagine being able to charge your iPod or your iPhone wherever there’s a Mac?
Better yet, what if you could share power and data at the same time?”
Also, there’s the prospect of Intel inching us tantalizingly closer to helping addressing the issues raised in my gadget energy manifesto, which I firmly believe is something every consumer electrics manufacturer ought to be working towards…