New Tech Beams Power Across the Room via Ultrasound Waves

Charging your electronics wirelessly is nothing new, but the wow factor is generally not enough to trump the inconvenience of finding a charging pad and charging cover and placing them both near a socket. uBeam, a company with a room-wide approach to charging, has produced its first working prototype and hopes to see it both in private and public within the next few years.

Meredith Perry, the company's founder, spoke with the New York Times on Aug. 6 to explain both the technology she's developing and where she wants it to go. The uBeam charger consists of a thin pad that connects to a power source and transmits signals to a small receiver on a gadget.

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uBeam works by taking electricity from a power source and converting it into ultrasound at the transmitter, then converting it back to electricity at the receiver. This charges a battery less efficiently than simply plugging it in, but it also means that a battery can charge constantly while a user moves around a room or venue.

This method of charging a device has some noticeable pros and cons. Not being tethered to the wall is an appealing prospect, and ultrasound can penetrate a user's pocket or handbag with ease. However, ultrasound is simply a high-frequency sound wave, and therefore does not travel well through walls or across long distances. Some animals are also sensitive to ultrasound, depending on the frequency.

Still, Perry believes that a widespread adoption of uBeam technology could change phone design in radical ways. If the technology is everywhere (she intends to sell more powerful models to sports stadiums, restaurants and the like), batteries and the phones that contain them can get away with being much smaller and thinner. After all, a phone that constantly charges is one that doesn't need long battery life.

Whether uBeam will stick any better than other wireless technologies will ultimately depend on its convenience. Sure, it will give you the freedom to walk around a room while your phone charges, but so will a long enough wire.

Marshall Honorof is a Staff Writer for Tom's Guide. Contact him at Follow him @marshallhonorof and on Google+. Follow us @tomsguide, on Facebook and on Google+.

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  • zubikov
    This cannot possibly be healthy.
  • Pailin
    ...And nature takes the back seat again...!

    They make ultra sound emitters to prevent mice staying in peoples homes - I feel sorry for all the rest of nature (dogs, cats, birds etc) that will have to possibly soon put up with uber powerful versions of these devices dotted around.
    - amazing how people just don't care if it makes them richer :(

    I might add I personally can also clearly hear those ultra sound mice deterrents.
    (our's sound like crickets making that chirping noise, not really that annoying a mouse deterrent, perhaps other versions are more annoying that the ones my folks bought)

    - I've only met one other person that can hear them so far, but where there are a few, there will be Many more.

    Hope they ban such mass use of this tech !!!
  • thechief73
    This just shows how far people will go no matter haw many drawbacks or unpractical the tech they are trying to develop are. I guess if you use enough big fancy words and promise the future to enough ignorant people you will get some money to throw at. Read this article hereEEVBlog to get the real idea of whats going on from a real electrical engineer.