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uBeam makes long-range wireless charging a reality, working prototype now ready

UBeam is an upcoming wireless charging standard that promises the ability to charge your device while you move around a room and actively keep using your phone.
August 7, 2014

While wireless charging has yet to become as mainstream as some might like, probably the most successful standard is QI wireless, which has found its way onto numerous devices including the Nexus 5. The downside to Qi and other wireless charging technologies is that the charging distance is often extremely limited, with QI currently only able to transmit a distance of 7mm. While QI v1.2 will increase the range to 45mm, this is still pretty limiting.

What if you could wirelessly charge your device while moving around anywhere in a room? That’s exactly what uBeam aims to accomplish with its long-distance wireless charging technology. If that name sounds at all familiar, that’s because the startup first began showing off its concept back in 2011. At the time, the company had a very early prototype that had a lot of quirks, but was at least able to demonstrate how the idea would work. Three years later, uBeam has announced that they have taken a big step forward by completing a fully working prototype that will serve as a reference model for the final commercial product.

The transmitter than takes in electricity and converts it to sound, which is then sent over via ultrasound.

So how exactly does uBeam work? Basically its charging station is a special plate that uBeam says can be hung on walls as decorative art or placed just about anywhere in the room. The charging station than takes in electricity and converts it to sound, which it transmits to a device via ultrasound. On the phone or tablet end, you simply need a small receiver that catches these sound waves and converts them back into electricity. As you might imagine, there are some limitations to the idea, though. For one thing, the wireless charging tech can’t pass through walls like Wi-Fi, so you’d need a charging plate in every room. We’d imagine there’s also some possible health implications involved here, though we can’t say for sure.

The uBeam team says that the first commercial products should be arriving in the next two years, though with experimental technologies delays are always a very real possibility. Meredith Perry, uBeam’s founder, also clarifies they intend to sell both a smaller model for use in homes and a larger model for businesses that would allow patrons of hotels, restaurants and other businesses to charge in mass.

What do you think, impressed by the idea of uBeam or do you feel its too impractical to ever take off?