GuRu’s robot could charge up your devices wirelessly over a distance

This story is part of our continuing coverage of CES 2020, including tech and gadgets from the showroom floor.

Another day at CES 2020, another company ready to make the dream of wireless charging over distance a reality. This time around it was GuRu’s turn to show us three demonstrations of wireless charging over distance working in different ways.

First was a transmitter with a square base section around a foot and a half across with a frame that held an angled panel about the same size again in place. The power coming from the angled panel was being directed into a light bulb over a distance of perhaps two feet, but with a press of a button GuRu CEO Florian Bohn redirected it to charge a phone via a case with a special receiver panel on it.

“The device delivers multiple watts over the right recovery area,” explained Bohn. “This is not a trickle charge.”

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At the distance of two feet, it was capable of sending somewhere around 5W of power, enough to charge a phone up in a few hours. While it is possible to send power further, this issue of distance leading to diminishing returns is a thorny one for power over distance technology in general. The further away you go from the power source, the less power you can pick up, and at distances beyond six feet, things get positively wasteful.

GuRu’s technology establishes a link between transmitter and receiver and tries to keep power loss to a minimum by sending focussed beams of power using millimeter-wave (mmWave) technology. By employing a technique called radiofrequency lensing, radio wave energy is generated in the generating unit (GU) and then refracted and channeled into focused beams that are collected by the recovery unit (RU); this is where the GuRu name comes from.

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The second demo involved a robot and a clever solution to the issue of distance and efficiency. GuRu’s robot looked much like a robot vacuum, but with an angled panel on top, like the one in the first demo. The robot trundled around the stand to beam energy at receivers and light-up bulbs. The idea is that your wireless charging robot could patrol around your house at night while you sleep, charging up everything from your phones and tablets, to security cameras and TV remotes. If it can move within a foot or two of the device, it can deliver a meaningful amount of power.

The third demo was a large ceiling tile beaming power to two receivers below hooked up to smartphones and charging them. This is a familiar idea and similar to tech we saw Ossia demonstrate earlier in the show.

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You may be wondering what happens when someone blocks the beam.

“It just automatically shuts off,” Bohn said, sticking his hand between the transmitter and receiver to show me the light going out.

The system can also be calibrated to shut off when people are nearby, rather than actually physically blocking it. GuRu is currently working with the Federal Communications Commission to get approval and it seems likely it will, since other companies in this space, like Ossia and Energous, already have.

“Regulatory approval will happen, we’re well underway to get that,” Bohn said confidently.

Having seen a number of reference designs and prototypes in this space over the last couple of years, the question of when we might see this kind of charging in a product we can actually buy is important. GuRu has a strategy to get there.

“We’re equipped to build our own devices, but we want to work with manufacturing partners to bring them to market,” Bohn said. “We could have a consumer product within the year, but I don’t want to promise.”

The idea of wireless power over distance certainly seems to be gaining momentum with a number of new players emerging on the scene to join the now familiar pioneers.

“We’ve been fairly stealth,” Bohn said with a smile. “But now we’re ready to signal that wireless power over distance is here and it’s ready.”

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