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Disney scientists design high-tech room that charges mobile devices wirelessly

Why it matters to you

Disney Research takes us another step toward the day when we'll no longer have to think about charging our devices. It'll just happen.

While talk of Apple developing wireless technology that will charge your iPhone as it sits in your pocket is merely rumor at this stage, Disney Research has just unveiled the real deal in the form of an entire room capable of charging every compatible gadget that happens to be inside it.

As the team points out, current solutions are limited to resting a mobile device on a charging pad and so fail to provide the physical freedom for the kind of charging we’d all like to have.

“What we really want is a three-dimensional charging experience where you walk into your living room or office and your cell phone is charged simply by walking in,” said Alanson Sample, one of the researchers who worked on the system.

Its ubiquitous wireless power delivery can, in the team’s own words, “enable purpose-built structures, such as cabinets, rooms, and warehouses, to generate quasistatic magnetic fields that safely deliver kilowatts of power to mobile receivers contained nearly anywhere within.”

The team’s approach, laid out in detail here, enables the delivery of 1,900 watts of energy throughout the room, with an efficiency of 40 to 95 percent depending on the location of the chargeable device.

The main hitch, however, is that the actual room in which the technology is housed is currently an integral part of the design. In other words, in the tech’s current form, you’d have to build a room according to a specific design to make it work.

So the walls, floor, and ceiling comprise aluminum panels, while in the center you’ll find a floor-to-ceiling copper pipe that resembles an exercise pole.

Inside the pipe, about halfway down, are 15 capacitors that set the electromagentic frequency of the structure and confine the electric fields. The setup also uses a signal generator, a power amplifier, and a drive coil that couples power to the room.

“The current travels through the pole, ceiling, walls, and floor, which generates a magnetic field, circulating around the pole. By coupling a coil receiver to the magnetic field, power can be provided nearly anywhere in the room,” the team explains in the video above, adding that the “inclusion of doors, windows, and furniture does not significantly impact power transfer.”

But would such a system adversely affect human health? Disney Research’s Matt Chabalko said its technology meets federal safety guidelines, which means “it’s completely safe for people to occupy the space for any amount of time.”

The technology is currently a proof-of-concept, so there’s no telling when we might see Disney’s technology taken to the next level. However, the team is currently working to refine the system with the aim of doing away with specially made rooms and improving its efficiency.

With electrical pioneer Nikola Tesla achieving groundbreaking work in the field of wireless power more than 100 years ago, progress has seemingly been slow. That’s why Disney Research hopes it can be the one to finally deliver free-roaming wireless charging to the masses.