back to article Microsoft wants LAMP for wireless mobe charger

Microsoft Research has put forward the idea of charging mobile phones with a beam of light. Explained in a paper titled AutoCharge: Automatically Charge Smartphones Using a Light Beam (PDF), the idea is to use a Kinect motion sensor to spot a phone, then focus a lamp on it to bathe phones in light and charge them wirelessly. …

  1. James 51

    How would this interact with using bulbs to transmit data?

    1. John Robson Silver badge

      powerline networking....

      I think I'd rather just have a charging pad...

      Not that a PV/capacitive/retina(burning) display wouldn't be a nice touch, I doubt it would really do all that much in our power hungry world.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Thank god for that.

      I thought from the headline they were going to use a LAMP stack for something. Not great for a target the size of Microsoft seeing as the LAMP stack historically has the security ability of a rusty colander to hold back water...

  2. Voland's right hand Silver badge


    So we now multiply the efficiency of light generation (sub-70% even for the best LED lighting) with the efficiency of light conversion under (on average) a suboptimal angle which we can safely assume to be under 15% for a grand total of ~ 10%.

    Earth to Dave: "Can I have my charger back"

    1. ACcc

      Re: Fantastic


      Beat me to it. I can't believe someone actually entertained this as an idea.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Fantastic

        "Beat me to it. I can't believe someone actually entertained this as an idea."

        Ditto. This a "because we can" idea which may or may not have underlying patents that can be used in a more useful way, but hey, at least it builds up the MS patent portfolio.

        Is Rube Goldberg on the MS payroll?

        I'd be a little more impressed if the phone had it's own solar cells and this device operated a lens/mirror arrangement at the window to send as much natural light in the right direction as possible. It's still a Rube Goldberg idea but maybe slightly less wasteful of generated energy. That might be handy if you forget to leave the phone on the windowsill in the sunlight or need it on your desk.

    2. sorry, what?

      Re: Fantastic

      Couldn't agree more. Indeed, the same could be said for induction charging - plenty of scope for wasted energy there. We need batteries that charge without the need for a transformer of any kind (at least outside the power generation infrastructure).

      Or perhaps one based on bacterial action on bio-waste? (Could be a bit smelly though.)

      1. an it guy

        Re: Fantastic

        Here's the thing. If it's intended for complete 'fast' charging of a phone, forget it. However, if, like some of the Casio g-shock watches it's intended to trickle charge throughout the day, then it sounds like a much better proposition.

        the vast majority of us will work in some level of light (unless we're blind cavers, which I suspect is a rather small minority of the caving population), so having it charge while the phone is in light for 12 hours a day could mean that your phone would reasonably last the whole day and well into the night as it's being topped up, or simply using the solar energy for ticking over. That, in my opinion is a much better use case for it. Plus in an office environment the UV from a fluorescent light could help so long as actual glass is not used (quartz allows UV to pass through, but Silicon dioxide absorbs it)

        On the G-shock front, had mine for over 10 years, always has a full battery, the battery has not needed changing, and it's always accurate on time. Yes, it has hands to move as well as a digital section, so it's not doing 'nothing' or having an e-ink display to sip power

        1. Colin Miller

          Re: Fantastic

          There's a reason why UV-blocking glass is used for fluorescent lamps, it is harmful to our retinas.

          As for solar charging, the Sun gives, on Earth, approx 1kW/m2 of sunlight across all frequencies, when the surface is perpendicular to the Sun. This is largely independent of latitude. A 5.5" 16:9 display is 13cm by 7 cm or about 1/100 of a square metre. If the solar panel can use about 10% of the sunlight (inc non-visible), then it would collect about 1W, which is less than most smart phones phones use when idle.

          1. Can't think of anything witty...

            @Colin Miller - Re: Fantastic

            I know that you are writing off getting 1W from the solar panel on the screen, but i think that it would still be useful.

            I found this paper from a couple of years ago ( Suggests that in their setup a phone used approximately 270mW when idle with the backlight off and only went over 1W when making a call via GSM.

            Granted, the phones in the test were a couple of years old and therefore probably clock a lot lower than current ones, but i suspect that may have been offset to some degree by more effiecient processors and even a three-fold increase in idle consumption still leaves change...

    3. TechicallyConfused

      Re: Fantastic

      Yep, I was about to post more or less that but you just saved me the effort of doing that bit of research.

      From a purely academic and engineering point of view it would be a very interesting project that may well in the future deliver some useful application but charging a phone in the most inefficient manner imaginable is probably not going to be one of them.

    4. Tom 35

      Re: Fantastic

      And it has to be sitting on your desk / table and not in your pocket, or holster. So if it's on your desk and you can't work up the energy to plug in a cable, a charging mat should be much less complex/expensive/inefficient then the robo tracking light thing.

    5. YetAnotherLocksmith Silver badge

      Re: Fantastic

      Even better, those 'visible and invisible' wavelength bulbs? They were called incandescents and they've banned them now!

      Apparently the argument was they were inefficient.

      So now we heat the house with the radiators a little more, & the lights a little less...

      Stupid idea though. Better to have the phone talk to the (invisible) light, which scans around at a signal from the phone. When in the right place the phone simply tells the light to stop scanning.

      There, just saved you £200 on your charger design, cameras and associated intelligence.

  3. Joseph Eoff

    Greetings from Mr. Rogers

    Can you say "stupid idea?"



    I knew you could.

  4. ratfox

    For a while…

    I thought Microsoft was going to use Linux-Apache-MySql-Php stacks. That would have been scary.

  5. Billa Bong

    To get a job as a Microsoft researcher

    Use the phrase "hey, I've got an idea!", involve at least one MS product and one non-MS product in conjunction. No need to think about practicalities, efficiency, or even a *requirement*. I didn't think it would be possible but this actually beats their "whole room immersive experience", a solution with no problem and merely "meh" until someone stomps on the cat/dog/baby/breakable item.

    Still, it could be worse... they could be suggesting that mobile phone manufactures put a solar panel on the surface of the phone so that you get into the habit of not putting it safely into your pocket but rather leaving it on the table in a crowded coffee shop, on a train, etc... Oh...

  6. GarethJ

    With a fricking Lazer presumably.

    So, Microsoft are going to burn their competitors?

    "Microsoft Research has put forward the idea of charing mobile phones with a beam of light"

  7. Lionel Baden

    why use a Kinect ?

    Would not it be more efficient to link the phone up to the beamer via wireless / bluetooth, then only do select parts of the room and measure the charging level, it cant be hard to program a game of

    your getting warmer ... warmer ... Sizzling .... RED HOT .....

  8. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge

    Nuclear batteries

    ^ That's all we need. Batteries which last a lifetime. Then we can forget all the problems of keeping them charged.

    Of course there may be other things we then need to worry about.

    1. Martin Budden Silver badge
      Paris Hilton

      Re: Nuclear batteries

      Do nuclear batteries last a lifetime because the batteries last longer or because your lifetime is shorter?

  9. John Jennings

    Stupid concept

    It would be a better idea to have a phone case, with an NFC or something to triangulate the phone (a transmitter in 2 corners, with 2 recievers would triangulate the position in 3 axis, and orientation (face up/down/a potential target for the charger presented). Then use a freaken laser to beam onto the case- if its an appropriate target (hit it at low power for a few milliseconds, to sense if you have a direct line of sight, then ramp up ) Bluetooth reports back if the case has charged the phone.

    Relatively efficient transmission, no diffusion

    Less collaboration with external suppliers

    I mean - LASERS.

    1. David Pollard

      Re: Stupid concept

      Nah. Trained sharks.

  10. Owain 1


    Presumably once the machines achieve consciousness they will use these handy energy weapons to blind all the human scum.

  11. Evil Auditor Silver badge

    That seems like a clever solution for a really dumb idea.

  12. Richard Conto

    Fringe capability

    Outside of my home, my cell phone seldom leaves my possession (in a shirt pocket) because it contains enough sensitive information and information important to me that to loose it would be a calamity.

    At home, if it's not in my possession, it's likely to be in one of three places, and the place it's likely to be longest (on my bedside table) would make photonic charging distinctly unpleasant.

    This is a technically interesting capability - but I doubt the practicality of it.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Better ideas (like the truth) are surely out there.

    If enough energy can be collected from solar or ambient light sources into a stationary storage cell (this could be a Kinect, but doesn't have to be) and then focused onto a phone charging captor (which I believe is the main idea) this could work as long as the power yield and transfer figures stand up. I suspect the initial prototypes will fail miserably though.

    What is needed is an efficient store and forward power collection device that won't burn the kids and household pets. A thirsty phone can then be stood into a cradle near (or on top of) the device to trigger and capture the power source beam. Still easier than looking around for a USB plug every night/day/hour. But it is hard to see what real advantages this would provide over a standard dock charger.

    Ford recently came up with an interesting concept for powering its solar cars. First. they made the entire car roof into a curved solar panel. This panel included a moving captor which focuses sunlight onto the panels to improve solar charging efficiency. An onboard computer with seasonal sky coordinates and GPS then moves the mechanized roof captor around to "follow the sun" while the car is moving or at rest. Pretty nifty idea, I thought. Saw this at a car show but couldn't get any hard statistics out of the demo people.

    I am not too sure about the constant trickle charge concept though. That will clearly need more work. We also need to consider the potential risk of standing in front of energized beams for any length of time. Don't fancy it myself.

    1. YetAnotherLocksmith Silver badge

      Re: Better ideas (like the truth) are surely out there.

      Hopefully someone has thought of having the sun location data feed to the GPS and selectively tintable windscreen, so the low sun doesn't blind you so frequently. Because that would actually be useful.

  14. stefan 5

    Ummm il just plug it in thanks. what a load of crap

  15. Will Godfrey Silver badge

    Headline - Microsoft wins again!

    ... the anal (anual even) stupid idea competiton.

  16. Camilla Smythe

    Message Received

    From: the.mysterons@anotherplanet.galaxy


    Subject: Bwah Hah Hah

    See Subject

    Kind Regards

    Captain Black

  17. T. F. M. Reader

    This changes everything!!!

    I find it most convenient to charge my phone at night. I also use the phone as an alarm clock on occasion, so leaving it in another room with lights on is not an option. Am I expected to change my habits?

  18. sjsmoto

    Do I smell bbq?

    So the Kinect spots a phone on a table and begins to send light rays in its direction. You pick up the phone and the Kinect follows it. You turn around and the Kinect detects sub-par reception. It then increases transmission so the waves can make it through the obstruction - which happens to be your head.

    1. Allan George Dyer

      Re: Do I smell bbq?

      The next version has additional hardware to deal with this problem - an AK47.

    2. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: Do I smell bbq?

      So do we take it that the MS researchers previously worked on the Star Wars Initiative and have been trying to come up with a commercial application for the technology?

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