Nikola Tesla, famed inventor and rival of Thomas Edison, discovered wireless power as far bas as the 1890s, but we’re still tethered to outlets over a century later.
This is why a new start-up called uBeam has generated a lot of excitement and attracted the attention of high profile investors. Two recent college grads have hopes to liberate our devices from the hassle of cabled charging by utilizing wireless electricity. Though the company missed its self-imposed deadline, founder Meredith Perry recently teased on Twitter that they’ll launch a product in the near future.
Perry and Nora Dweck founded uBeam in 2011 after they forgot their laptops’ chargers at the wrong. The experience inspired them to develop a product that would be like “WiFi for power,” using ultrasonic waves to transmit power over the air.
There are two different kinds of wireless power. Inductive charging, which is what charges your electric toothbrush as it sits in its dock, requires both the receiver and the transmitter to have physical contact. Wireless power based on magnetic resonance, though, would theoretically allow for long range transmissions. Think of a power cloud–the moment you’d walk into it, the devices on your person would begin charging.
The seemingly magical latter option is what uBeam hopes to bring to the market.
uBeam isn’t the only company to tap into the idea of wireless charging through magnetic resonance, either. Another new start-up called WiTricity has also demonstrated their prototypes that can power devices from approximately a meter away.
Part of what makes this technology so exciting is that it offers more than a convenient way to charge cell phones. Imagine having an entire kitchen’s worth of appliances all powered wirelessly. Think about all the space and hassle that would save on a large scale. Plus, it could also make homes safer, as it reduces the chance of electric fires from faulty wiring.
One potential caveats of uBeam’s and similar competitors’ products may be a steep price tag. Looking back, the Zenith “Space Command” TV remote control, which was the first wireless TV remote that worked well, significantly increased the price of televisions.
That being said, consumers weren’t deterred, and over 9 million ultrasonic remotes were sold. As history shows, consumers may be willing to pay the higher price of the uBeam. Michael Arrington of CrunchFund, after watching a demonstration of uBeam, said it’s “the closest to magic I’ve seen in a long time.”