Since long before the dawn of this century (always wanted to say that), tech pundits and proselytizers have been consulting their trusty prediction machines and proclaiming “The Year of Wireless.” It happened when IR ports showed up on laptops, then again when wireless mice began gracing desktops. Nearly everyone got on the bandwagon when Wi-Fi appeared, followed again with GPRS, EDGE, EVDO, etc—and of course with that most overpromised and underdelivered of technologies, Bluetooth. This year, the experts are at it again, placing bets on new technologies that promise to finally release us mortals from the coils of copper that clutter our homes and offices and make transferring data, media and power a nuisance.
No doubt you’re excited by all this, but it is my grave duty to poke a pin in your bubble. Like Bill Murray’s forlorn weatherman in Groundhog Day, I can see the future, and it’s looking an awful lot like today: Welcome to “The Year of Still Wired.”
The most recent example of further delayed gratification came a week ago when wireless charge pad-maker, Splashpower, announced they were “restructuring,” which is business-speak for broke. Splashpower had been working on a technology that seemed to have fantastic potential—the idea being that you’d leave this special pad on a table or desk and then plop all your various portable electronics on it to charge them via induction, eliminating the need to plug anything in. It’s such a tantalizing concept that there are at least two other companies (eCoupled and WildCharge) also working on similar systems. WildCharge is the first out of the gate and already has a $60 charging pad on the market, along with a special $35 adapter for use with RAZR V3 phones. They plan to put out an adapter for iPod Nanos soon. But I’m prepared to say that while their goal is a noble one—and I hope the concept of wireless charging is embraced—their model doesn’t seem sound to me.
The obvious, ideal, solution is that the charging equipment is built into devices in the first place by the manufacturer, exactly like rechargeable electric toothbrushes. I simply don’t want to pay $35 or more each for the half-dozen portable devices in my household, on top of what I’ve already shelled out. Perhaps one of these companies is working on such licensing deals with a major manufacturer already, but I don’t expect to be wirelessly charging anything in this manner for at least a few more years. That’s a bummer—this concept was demoed to me at least 5 years ago, and hasn’t really progressed since.single page
Five amazing, clean technologies that will set us free, in this month's energy-focused issue. Also: how to build a better bomb detector, the robotic toys that are raising your children, a human catapult, the world's smallest arcade, and much more.