uBeam is a little bit of a mystery in Silicon Valley. The wireless charging company claims to have developed some way to charge electronic devices using ultrasonic waves, for truly cord-less charging regardless of what surface your smartphone is touching.
But yesterday, uBeam showed off its wireless charging tech at the upfront Summit in Los Angeles. The demonstration was supposed to be “off the record,” which is a strange issue to inform a crowd of people with video cameras in their pockets. As you might suspect, various video of the demo is currently floating around Twitter.
Cynics have denounced uBeam’s ultrasound wireless charging at-a-distance technology since its first prototype in 2011, in part because it refused to share the particulars for fear of competitors copying it. But today, its founder Meredith Perry unveiled extensive details, research, and safety information about how uBeam works. And soon it will be able to simultaneously charge and send data to multiple phones or other electronics moving around in a room.
wireless charger that charging devices through the air
uBeam, is starting with wireless phone charging “to introduce the concept of wireless charging to the world.” But the company has much bigger plans.
They say that air is not a good conductor of airwaves and even if it did manage to beam a bit of energy to phones – it wouldn’t be strong enough for a charge or it would be too directional. How many transmitters would be needed to charge everyone’s phone in a single cafe or hotel lobby, they ask. Others fear the waves could hurt animals.
uBeam, a company working on ultrasonic technology to charge personal devices wirelessly, showed off a demo at the Upfront Summit in Los Angeles. Zillow Group CEO Spencer Rascoff posted a video of the demo on Twitter. CEO Meredith Perry held up a smartphone against a large speaker-like white box to charge it wirelessly.
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How uBeam Works
The first release of uBeam’s technology will come in the form of a phone charging case. However it also plans to power hearing aids, tablets, sensors, light bulbs, computers, and flat screen TVs. The 20-person uBeam team has filed 30 patents on all of its technologies. But is still keeping some technical details such as the acoustic intensities involved under wraps.
uBeam relies on ultrasound transduction for power. A transmitter on the wall of a room converts energy and data into ultrasound waves. Detects uBeam’s receivers in the room requesting energy or data, and beams them the sound. The receiver then uses an ultrasound transducer to convert the sound back into electrical energy and data. It then passes them to the connected device, charging it.
One large limitation of uBeam is that it requires a line-of-sight from the transmitter to the receiver to work. If the transmitter detects something blocking the connection, such as a wal, or human body, the transmission is immediately ceased. Unlike a speaker or light bulb, uBeam’s transmitters don’t just indiscriminately broadcast power. The transmitter locks on to the receiver and delivers a directional focused beam.
If rumours are anything to be believed, Apple is working on a never before seen wireless charging technology for iPhone 8. The iPhone 8 can charge wirelessly as long as you are within 15 feet of the transmitter.
As Axios points out, uBeam’s ultimate goal is to create a device resembling a small satellite dish-shaped charger. There are still a ton of different technical queries, too, as to how the company will overcome the limits of physics to create a product that works systematically as designed. Still, it’s a promising first suggestion that uBeam’s foundational concept is actually sound. We will have to wait and watch if the Cupertino large comes up with something like this or not.