Making battery chargers a thing of the past... and the re-emergence of the smart watch

Posted by Declan Hill on 22-Apr-2013 10:00:15

Bored with having to recharge your laptop battery every two hours? I know I am. Being restricted to two-hour stints may be good for the gluteus muscles because it forces us to get up and walk about, but it doesn’t help if you’re making a McDonald’s Happy Meal last for longer than is polite or necessary just so you can use the free Wi-Fi and the screen goes blank.

University of Illinois BatterySo it’s good to know there are some boffiny chaps who are on the case. As detailed in a paper published in Nature Communications a team at the University of Illinois claim to have developed a battery that can be charged 1000 times quicker than normal rechargeables and is either tiny in comparison or vastly more powerful and the same size.

Apparently there are some safety issues but hey, who cares?

The batteries are being created individually at the moment, but they’re looking to scale it up once it’s been trialled. The safety issue is that the electrolyte – the part which blocks the energy from travelling internally so that it can only travel out of the battery and into the laptop, mobile device etc – is a flammable liquid and could explode if in large enough quantities. They’re working on it…

Technological breakthroughs can be awe-inspiring and scary at the same time. Another US research team, this time from the University of California, has developed a device the width of a human hair that can be applied to the forehead to pick up the wearer’s thoughts and can then transfer them into action. This could be something like moving a robotic hand or switching on a sensor-activated kettle.

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John A Rogers via TXchnologist Click to enlarge

The great breakthrough here is that the device is external to the body, eliminating the need for invasive brain surgery as is the necessity at the moment. Although internal implants are currently much better at picking up the signals from the brain, the power of this technology lies in its scalability and accessibility. The devices are attached to the skin like a tattoo and the inventors are looking at using them to detect seizures in premature babies which could lead to brain development disorders and epilepsy. This is a real case of life-affirming technology being used to help society rather than just making so-called technological advancement for the sake of it, with no real purpose whatsoever.

Last time out, I brought news of the iPlay, which turned out to be a well-designed April Fool’s joke. So when I saw that Microsoft are thinking of launching a smart watch, I was dubious to say the least, especially as their previous version, the SPOT, sunk without trace in 2008. But with a number of companies on the verge of launching wrist-based technology, it seems the logical step forward. Samsung and Apple reportedly have smart watches in the pipeline, and the recently released Pebble watch was launched with money raised through crowd-funding site Kickstarter. It’s already spawned an Italian redesign making it fashion conscious as well as functional. I must admit, even though this isn't going to change the world, I was a tiny bit excited. And the battery lasts for seven days. At least they got that bit right.

Image credits: University of Illinois, I'm, John A Rogers via TXchnologist[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

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