Wireless Power & “Sensitive” Robots: videos from IDF

Justin Rattner gave a pretty fascinating keynote at IDF today about what he thought the big advances would be by 2050. He included three demonstrations from some out-there research that is happening in some of intel’s “Lab-lets” in Seattle and Pittsburgh. I had a chance to chat with a few of the researchers a few weeks before to get a sneak peak and grabbed some video of their work – take a look at the videos below to see what Rattner showed today in his keynote:

Cutting last cord – power:

Imagine having the ability to walk into an airport or room with your laptop and instead of consuming battery, it is recharged. Based on principles proposed by MIT physicists, Intel researchers have been working on a Wireless Resonant Energy Link (WREL). Rattner demonstrated powering a 60-watt light bulb without the use of a plug or wire of any kind, which is more than is needed for a typical laptop. Josh Smith, a principle engineer at Intel, and intern Alanson Sample are leading the research effort out of our Seattle lab and I had a chance to see it in action and chat with him before the keynote – check out the video to see for yourself:

“Sensitive” Robots:

Rattner demonstrated two working personal robot prototypes developed at Intel’s research labs – these are meant to someday be at home with you instead of in a manufacturing floor. One of the demonstrations showed electric field pre-touch that has been built into a robot hand. The technique is a novel sense used by fish but not humans, so it can “feel” objects before it even touches them. The other demonstration was a complete autonomous mobile manipulation robot that can recognize faces and interpret and execute commands as generic as “please clean this mess” using state-of-the-art motion planning, manipulation, perception and artificial intelligence. Check out this video I took just before the keynote started

9 Responses to Wireless Power & “Sensitive” Robots: videos from IDF

  1. Thomas Edison says:

    Hey Justin ever heard of yourself as a glory whore? You are. Out of respect for the true pioneer you should always mention Nicola Tesla any time you discuss “your” wireless electric apparatus. Wilhelm Reich sound familiar too? I’m just saying you owe them both much gratitude. Hope you use the technology like Tesla had intentioned. Sure you won’t.

  2. Chris Surdi says:

    WOW! This is amazing guys. It is great to see that a large company like Intel is also investing in wireless electricity.
    Although PowerBeam is transferring electricity wirelessly at 8 meters using an optical based system, it is truly satisfying to see the other technologies trying to reach the same goal; cut the cord and provide for a truly wireless user experience.
    Here is one of our public videos as well if anyone is interested: http://www.powerbeaminc.com/video.php
    Good job guys!

  3. Jonathan says:

    I was wondering if you found a way to overcome the over-coupling phenomenon that happens when two coils in resonance come too close and end up splitting the natural resonant frequency into two resonant frequencies. How did you, or how do you propose, to fix this problem?
    In your video you also had a clip of one of your techies moving the Rx coil around the Tx coil. The light in the process went out when the coils were side by side (since the magnetic field is stronger in front of the coils than the side), but what happens when the Rx coil is moved away from the Tx coil? How are you proposing omnidirectional transfer (try a spherical antenna?)? Don’t you also have a drop off of 1/r (Maxwell upsets us yet again)? And don’t you also change the resonance of the system since air is a capacitive component to this system?
    One last statement: What happens to the system power when a hand or other grounded body comes close to the coils? Is resonance lost due to a change in the capacitance (aka what about stay capacitance that can come in contact or come to a close proximity of the system)?
    I’m a recently graduated electrical engineer and I am curious how your system is overcoming these huge obstacles. I studied the MIT papers closely and wonder what’s new in this field and how Intel is part of it.
    Thank you and I hope to hear your responses!

  4. Josh Smith says:

    Jonathan,
    Those are really great questions. We are writing a paper that will address most of them.
    In the meantime, if you’d like to contact me directly, I’d be interested in corresponding further with you to find out more about your career path, etc.
    Josh Smith
    joshua.r.smith at intel.com

  5. Patrick says:

    Seems a bit late to comment. I saw a lot of arguments or even blames over the wirtricty, they are nonsense. If you can do this better, just make it happen. Edison is not the first man come up with the idea of light bulb. There were more than 20 organizations at that time trying to invent something like light bulb, but all of them gave up except one man get this done after trying more than 1000 diferent kinds of materials.
    I belive the biggest obstacle is we have to control the scope and strength of the magnetic field when transferring the energy. It is not true that magnetic field has no effects on human bodies, no one has proven this scientifically, vice versa. To get more power transferred under a given field strength, we may increase the resonance frequency which is leading to stronger EM radiation. Besides, the power electric industry today is not mature enough to provide a tiny-sized circuit for such high-frequency power module.
    I made my home-brew wireless transfer system last year, just used traditional VMOS circuit to reduce the cost, with higher transfer efficiency than MIT at the distance of 0.4m. There are lots of ways to imporve the prototype such as controling algorithm, adjustable parameters, matrix switching, etc. I will continue improving my system, as I love it. As an amateur, I have my own “amateur” way to do research, such as bio-effect testing on rabbits and other small animals in my father’s farm.

  6. jake farr says:

    What is the range on something like this? I understand it is still a pretty new technology, but it’s insanely exciting! I remember an Asimov short story that talked about a giant space-born power plant that would “beam” energy down to earth. With our ability for rockets and solar power panels, i see this as more of a science-soon-to-come rather than science fiction.