Tech Buzz: Beijing team proposes effortless phone charging with light beams

go by Nancy Owano
A prototype implementation of AuthoCharge. Top: the charger side components. Bottom: the smartphone side components. Credit: Yunxin Liu et al.

"Hurry up, my phone's dying." A familiar wail heard on the move. Cutting-edge smartphones pose charging headaches faster than the smartphone owner likes, with their powerful multicore CPU and GPU cores, screens, high-speed wireless network interfaces, energy-expensive apps and continuous sensing tasks. Can a light beam ease the charging exercises to effortlessly charge a smartphone? Three researchers think so.

Yunxin Liu, Zhen Qin and Chunshui Zhao of Microsoft Research, Beijing, have written a paper on their work, "AutoCharge: Automatically Charge Smartphones Using a Light Beam." They have named their approach AutoCharge and, like its title suggests, is designed to relieve the smartphone owner of the burden of any explicit effort to juice up the phone. Two steps are involved, detection and charging. Think of their approach as a "solar charging" technique but applied indoors with a wireless lightbeam. Think of it also as an image-processing technique designed to detect and track smartphones on a desk for automatic charging. Their paper reports the prototype that they designed and implemented, discussing the light charger and the smartphone detection and tracking system. The AutoCharge results: the prototype was able to detect the presence of a smartphone in seconds. Charging time was as fast as existing wired chargers.

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