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Power Handhelds Technology Hardware

Future Desks to Charge Gadgets Wirelessly 111

Posted by Zonk
from the much-better-than-hope-and-batteries dept.
IronMan writes "Future desks may allow us to charge our phones, iPods, PDAs and other gadgets wirelessly. Office equipment maker Herman Miller is one of the first companies to license the eCoupled inductive coupling technology from Fulton Innovation, Engadget reports. The desk will allows wireless transfer of energy through a magnetic field. Motorola is working together with eCoupled, but still is not sure when the first consumer devices with this technology will appear on the market. From the article: 'Of course, cordless charging isn't an entirely new concept, with HP recently showing off some of its own ideas for juiced-up furniture, and Splashpower talking up its charge-on-contact system for a few years now. We guess we'll just have to wait and see if this new power-happy desk becomes the same status symbol for the Web 2.0 crowd that Herman Miller's Aeron chair was back in Web 1.0 days -- assuming we haven't moved on to Web 3.0 by the time the desk actually comes out, that is.'"
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Future Desks to Charge Gadgets Wirelessly

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  • Health concerns (Score:2, Interesting)

    by rossdee (243626) *
    Is anyone worried about what the effects might be on the person sitting at the desk? Long term exposure to magnetic radiation may cause cancer...
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Asm-Coder (929671)
      I don't buy that. Strong Magnetic fields can be dangerous, (see my credit card example below) but I've never heard of harmful medical effects due to magnetic fields. (it's not really radiation) However, Life is known to the state of California to cause cancer and birth defects, so, don't buy this desk if you live in California.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by zigziggityzoo (915650)
      You're exposed to radiation everywhere, every day.

      Your cellphone, your power mains, radio signal, TV broadcasts, 2-way radios, WiFi, you name it. All of them surround you in radiation.

      I'm not so concerned about adding one more source.
    • by chris_eineke (634570) on Saturday January 20, 2007 @04:34PM (#17696620) Homepage Journal
      But I thought magnetic waves were supposed to heal injuries [indiangyan.com], not cause them! You are destroying my worldview -- you must be one of those scienti... I mean terrorists that are eradicating the American way of life!
      Shoo! SHOO!
    • Ever had an MRI? Ever noticed that the radiologist ain't hiding behind anything like the X-Ray guy does?

      "Magnetic radiation" isn't strong enough to make or break chemical bonds. Now certain kinds of electro-magnetic radiation *are* harmful, like gamma rays, X-rays, UV, and even visible light. But magnetic fields by themselves aren't going to do much more than erase your credit cards and put your protons in excited spin states.

      Now if they were using Tesla coils to recharge stuff wirelessly, then I'd be wo
      • by drgonzo59 (747139)
        Yes, the "magnetic radiation" is not strong enough to break chemical bonds but it may still affect the nervous system or other systems of the body. It is try that there is a _correlation_ between living under power lines and incidents of leukemia (maybe people who live under power lines are poor and eat crappy foods and therefore get leukemia?).

        And is also true that individuals who are exposed to magnetic radiation in their workplace have not been found to be worse off than everyone else. Therefore on

        • by pnot (96038)
          It is try that there is a _correlation_ between living under power lines and incidents of leukemia (maybe people who live under power lines are poor and eat crappy foods and therefore get leukemia?)

          It is still disputed (last I heard, Childhood Cancer Research Group says yes but Childhood Cancer Study says no). But even in the case of the CCRG, neither of the hypotheses they advanced to explain their findings had anything to do with magnetic fields.

          And is also true that individuals who are exposed to magneti
          • by pnot (96038)
            >> individuals who are exposed to magnetic radiation in their workplace have not been found to be worse off than everyone else.

            > Reference, please?

            Urp. Please ignore that. I missed your "not" on my first reading :-).
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by damian cosmas (853143)
          Yes, the "magnetic radiation" is not strong enough to break chemical bonds but it may still affect the nervous system or other systems of the body.

          I can't possibly see how. Most systems in the body depend on oxidation/reduction reactions, the cleavage/formation of phosphate bonds, or Na/K ion channels. Most elements present in vivo don't even have spin-active nuclei. Even if they get in excited spin states, that doesn't affect their reactivity in any meaningful way.

          Therefore one cannot claim that low fre
          • by drgonzo59 (747139)
            I can't possibly see how. Most systems in the body depend on oxidation/reduction reactions,

            The body, especially the brain and the nervous system is also a conductor, therefore and antenna. The brain's electrical signal are low enough that it won't take much to disrupt them. I imagine if someone is living close to a radio station, where people with metal fillings can hear "voices" in their head, there might be some interference with the central nervous system. I am not talking about burnt brain matter but

          • by cnettel (836611)
            Well, peripheral nerve stimulation is a very real effect and concern during whole-body MRI. You can induce currents within single nerves without creating chemical reactions. You still get the gradient and that's all that's needed. (Of course, that gradient will activate chemical reactions in the actual synapse.)
    • by MaXiMiUS (923393)
      Despite what Futurama says, not everything causes cancer..

      Bender: Hey! Get a load of this pathetic 20th century TV!
      Fry: What's wrong with it?
      Bender: Well, aside from causing eye cancer, these things had a lousy low-definition picture.
      Seriously though, I couldn't find anything linking magnetism to cancer, so you're just being superstitious.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by krs804 (986193)
        Once the word RADIATION is heard, most people cringe. They lump all EM radiation into the same category as UV, X and Gamma rays, or even confuse it with particle radiation. Anyway, I seriously doubt that this desk will emit anything higher than a few millivolts at a couple hundred Hertz.
    • Long term exposure to magnetic radiation may cause cancer...

      Screw that! What about my prince albert?!
    • by Lumpy (12016)
      But living on Earth has a higher rate of cancer.

      News flash to you, if you live in a home with electrical wiring and electricity then you are living inside a very large magnetic field, your car has lots of magentic fields.

      And god help you if you carry a cellphone, use a walkie talkie, have a TV set, etc...

      Pick your death, magnetic radiation and die of cancer when you are 85 or live like they did on the frontier and die without cancer but at age 45.

      Life on this planet is deadly, the dangers of a magnetic fie
    • This isnt magnetic radiation like wifi or a mobile phone. Its just a standard old electro magnet.
    • by cliffski (65094)
      I'd be more concerned about eh power wastage / efficiency concerns. Electricity ain't getting any cheaper (quite the reverse), and I can't say its *that* onerous a task to plug in a device only when it needs charging. Is this an always-on solution? because if so, that seems horribly wasteful to me.
      • by k1e0x (1040314)
        Perhaps it could sense a device bluetooth like and only when something needed a charge would it send out the power beam.
      • by dfjunior (774213)
        Certainly no more wasteful than the "wall warts" we use now; after all, many of them are using induction internally anyway. Conceptually, inductive charging technology just splits the transformer into two halves: one in the "charger" and one in the device itself.
        • Conceptually, inductive charging technology just splits the transformer into two halves: one in the "charger" and one in the device itself.

          Yeah, and the result is a lot less efficient.

      • by imkonen (580619)
        Actually in theory, the desk should not draw much current until something is charging, even if it is technically "always on". Transformers work on this same basic principle: electrical coils are not in direct contact, but inductively coupled. If there is no load on the downstream end, the power supply will also experience no load (well...ideally, in actuality it's a smaller load) and electriciy isn't particularly wasted.

        All that said, though, I'm not convinced this desk is going to work like a perfectly

    • magnetic radiation?

    • by sakshale (598643)

      Is anyone worried about what the effects might be on the person sitting at the desk? Long term exposure to magnetic radiation may cause cancer...
      I have a heart pacemaker and have been told that magnetic fields are something to be avoided. I wonder if they even looked into the possibility of there being a problem.

      I walk into your office, reach over your desk to shake your hand (not knowing your charger is there) and collapse...

      • by FLEB (312391)
        Think "Inverse Square Law". A very weak EM field could charge something placed directly on top of it, while the effect would be negligible outside a very short distance.
    • I would be more concerned with putting a laptop with a magnet based storage medium on a desk with a powerful magnetic field.
    • I am equally concerned about the wisdom of building a strong degaussing coil right into the desktop.

      There may be a need for big yellow tape boundaries on the desktop that indicate where it's safe to rest your laptop, to prevent the hard drive from being zonked.
    • by Cstryon (793006)
      The only thing I'm concerned about is the super awesome Powers I might get from being charged like a battery at my desk!
  • by Asm-Coder (929671) on Saturday January 20, 2007 @03:54PM (#17696402)
    Or, at least, no more shopping at stores in town after laying your credit card down on your desk while shopping online.
  • Wireless transfer of energy through a magnetic field, is SO 1998.

    No, really, my toothbrush does it.
  • "Not exactly new" (Score:5, Informative)

    by SilentBob0727 (974090) on Saturday January 20, 2007 @03:58PM (#17696416) Homepage
    The wireless transfer of energy through magnetic fields is called electromagnetic induction, and it's been a well-known phenomenon since 1831. It's also currently used the world over: see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transformer [wikipedia.org]
    • by bmgoau (801508)
      I believe the intention of this article was to introduce a new and particularly well grounded way of using said electromagnaetic induction. I dont believe the makers are stating anywhere that they have found a new way to transfer energy, they simply have made a push to have it integrated into our office lives.
  • by Robot Randy (982296) on Saturday January 20, 2007 @04:01PM (#17696438)
    And the cassette tape, floppy disk, microcassette, LTO-3 Backup, etc...

    not to mention pacemakers, insulin pumps...
    • And I don't really see a benefit in having to place your device on a certain spot on the desk to recharge it over having to place it in some charging device.

      The charging device is even more practical, since it's more portable.
      • The direct benefit is that when your cell phone seems like it's not being charged properly, instead of simply checking out a wall-wart and maybe needing to reseat it in an outlet or replace it, you will now be able to simply call the maintenance department, have them send out somebody to 'fix' your desk, wait a few days.... rinse, repeat, etc.
    • I have passed through airport security, which uses magnetic induction http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metal_detector [wikipedia.org] wearing my insulin pump many times, and it still works fine.

    • by WarlockD (623872)
      Mmmm. LTO-3. Where you can store your life on a 400gig tape, to have it nullified when the leader breaks.
  • Old technology (Score:3, Interesting)

    by NineNine (235196) on Saturday January 20, 2007 @04:03PM (#17696460)
    I've been charging my dog's "invisible fence" collar this way for years. Actually, with that technology, it doesn't even have to touch. It just has to get close to the charger (within an inch or two). Works great. My dog's zapper collar is 100% sealed shut, making it 100% waterproof.
    • People who punish their animals with electric shocks are really sick people, those collars should have been forbidden, and something should be done with people who performs animal cruelty like this.
      • by PachmanP (881352)
        Besides the parent being a troll there for the child... Has said parent thought that maybe, just maybe the grandparent poster cares for the dog and realizes that a few unpleasant, but harmless shocks are better than leaving the safety of the dog's yard, getting hit by a car, and dying half crushed along the road? Not that this is necessarily the case; he could just be a sick !@#$, but there exists the possibility that he is not.
  • by PPH (736903)
    Forget about my desk charging things. My coffee will never get cold again!
    • That would actually be a pretty cool device- a coffee mug with a heating element


      Still, I think this is the solution to the wrong problem. I don't find a single cord and an adapter that much of a hassle. The problem I have is that every single device needs a different charger- laptop, cell phone, iPod, digital camera, etc. I think the real need is for some standardization so you could have just one adapter charging multiple devices.

  • Web 4.27.1@#$! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by 1010110010 (1002553)
    I can't seriously be the only one tired of hearing about Web x.0.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      "Web 2.0" is the "information superhighway" of the middle of this decade. That is, it is the phrase that makes it clear that the speaker is a moron. And what the fuck the web has to do with a charging desk, I dunno.
  • Please give us rather a working wireless connection from our homes to our office desks.
  • Sheesh! (Score:3, Funny)

    by camperdave (969942) on Saturday January 20, 2007 @04:22PM (#17696560) Journal
    Now they're expecting me to carry a desk around whenever I need to charge things? No thanks. I'll just carry a wall-wart and plug it into any of the billion+ outlets scattered throughout North America.
  • Imagine... (Score:3, Funny)

    by ivan256 (17499) on Saturday January 20, 2007 @04:25PM (#17696576)
    ...if every electrical outlet had a different type of prongs depending on the brand of plug you bought.

    Hell, you don't even have to imagine. We already live with the incompatibility of low voltage power connectors... Only now instead of replacing an adapter when we get a device from a different manufacturer, we can buy all new office furniture! Joy!

    This technology is useless until the patents expire and building and electric codes require a specific version of the technology.
    • I don't think the future is that bleak, we just need the wireless equivalent of USB to pop up (which won't be wireless USB as we know it now, given that it only does data, not power).

      All it takes is a cheaply available and relatively generalized wireless power/data standard, with wide enough support that it becomes in a device maker's interests to leverage everyone's preexisting chargers for their new products. In fact, it seems likely that given the lack of physical plug designs to wrangle over for smalle
    • by Satertek (708058)
      When devices stop using electricity, yes, you'll have to buy a new desk.
    • by inviolet (797804)

      Hell, you don't even have to imagine. We already live with the incompatibility of low voltage power connectors... Only now instead of replacing an adapter when we get a device from a different manufacturer, we can buy all new office furniture! Joy!

      And there's the reason why this inductive-charging scheme will not be adopted quickly by gadget companies: accessories are a cash cow.

      Indeed, it is possible to sell a gadget at a loss, and earn all your profits on things like wall adapters, car adapters, USB ada

      • Gadget companies will simply be able to add another category of accessories to their current line. You didn't really think they were going to incorporate the 'bulky inductive pickup' (the language they will use) mechanism in the device itself, did you? I'm certain they will instead be eager to sell an additional new 'inductive pickup charging base' for you to place on that magic spot on the desk. No need to plug it into an outlet, and it has the traditional proprietary connector to attach to your gadget.
  • "Wireless charging is nothing new, HP..." ...or Tesla...
  • Aren't there some health concerns to having your work space set up like that?
  • Wireless mouse (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Bacon Bits (926911) on Saturday January 20, 2007 @05:22PM (#17696980)
    The first thing to come into my mind is a wireless mouse that gets power through the mouse pad. Wouldn't even need batteries, probably. Just capacitors.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by FooAtWFU (699187)
      Well, it's not EXACTLY the same, but if you get a Wacom graphics tablet, they include a mouse that only works on the tablet... it doesn't have a power supply at all, though, batteries or otherwise, and neither does the pen...
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by springbox (853816)
      Wireless mouse [a4tech.us]. Seems kind of stupid though. It's like a wired mouse without the wire connected to the mouse itself.
  • I'm curious about the efficiency of charging batteries with this technology. Batteries are already have an inherent level of inefficiency, so it seems to me that potentially adding another layer of energy loss to battery-powered gadgets is unfortunate and disappointing at best, environmentally irresponsible and a choice to contribute to the spoiling of Earth at worst.
    • It seems to me this would also significantly reduce the battery life of an appliance. Put something down on your desk... pick it up... put it down. Isn't that exactly what you are *not* supposed to do with batteries?
    • The energy inefficiency of this idea is astounding. A few thousand desks like this would need their own power station.

      I've got a much better idea: How about we standardize the power connectors on 'phones so that you can easily have a charger at work *and* at home, borrow a friend's charger, use the charger in your friend's car, etc.

      If you really must have contactless charging, how about a cradle which is roughly the same size/shape as a 'phone - so the induction coils actually line up properly and you only
  • that does the same thing. it sits on a little charger, and there are no contacts, just some molded plastic, and it charges relatively quickly. It is pretty neat actually. I'm surprised there are all these articles featuring this technology that has been around for some time now. It may be at a larger scale, but theres little difference between the wireless charging technology now and the same technology tomorrow.

  • ...you couldn't use a magnetic drive anywhere near it?
  • Argh. I need to learn to actually act on some of the cool ideas I think of. Ages ago, I built a prototype of a system like this. My idea involved standard AA, AAA, and other size batteries with inductive charging circuits built into each cell. The idea being that you'd then be able to trivially retrofit it in any device.

    My idea was just to make a generic pad that could be affixed to the bottom of any desk, countertop, shelf, etc.

    Ah well, I need to learn to act on my ideas before someone else does. Same thin
  • Could they be somehow related to this guy [rochester.edu]? If they are, I hate to think what's in store.
  • is a wideband power converter on my phone/laptop/camera, etc. that takes all the stray EM radiation that everyone else is leaking into the environment and uses it to charge my devices, thus saving me money...

    Maybe with an optional tinfoil hat plus charger lead that tops up my batteries at the same time as keeping the thought police out of my head. ;)

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