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January 20, 2015

Microsoft to charge smartphones with beam of light

The firm's latest prototype charger automatically locates a smartphone on a desk and charges it.

By Amy-Jo Crowley

Microsoft researchers have revealed an automatic charging system, dubbed AutoCharge, which they claim can charge smartphones with a beam of light.

Yunxin Liu, Zhen Qin, and Chunshui Zhao from Microsoft Research’s Beijing campus are working on a prototype system that uses visible light to automatically locate and charge a smartphone on a desk.

The charger features a Microsoft Kinect camera and image recognition software to detect smartphone-like objects, while an UltraFire CREE XM-L T6 Focusing LED Flashlight torch charges it.

"The charger automatically locates the smartphone and starts to charge it if the battery is low, without requiring any explicit effort from the user. Consequently, the user is able to largely get rid of the burden of the manual smartphone charging and the user experience is significantly improved," the research paper said.

The prototype charger also communicates with the smartphone via BlueTooth or an on-phone LED. As a result, charging stops when the battery is full, as well as making sure objects similar in size and shape to smartphones aren’t charged.

The paper, AutoCharge: Automatically Charge Smartphones Using a Light Beam, added: "Experimental results show that our prototype implementation is able to quickly detect a smartphone on a desk in various settings and charge it as fast as existing wired chargers."

"Despite that our prototype implementation is still far away from a real product and may be further improved in many aspects, we have demonstrated the feasibility and made a significant step towards automatic smartphone (and other mobile devices) charging."

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