Intel sees future with shape-shifting robots, wireless power

Intel shows off research into tiny robots that can be programmed to take on the shape of anything.

Wireless power

Another technology that Rattner said will change the way users deal with computers is wireless power. Imagine, he said, being able to take your laptop, cell phone or music player into a room and have them begin to charge automatically. What if it could be done in a certain area of an airport or at your office desk? No more power cords. No more need to find a place to plug in.

Working off of principles proposed by MIT physicists, Intel researchers have been working on what they're calling a Wireless Resonant Energy Link. During his keynote, Rattner demonstrated how a 60-watt light bulb can be powered wirelessly and said that doing so requires more power than would be needed to charge a typical laptop.

"Wouldn't it be neat," he said in the interview, "if we could really cut the cord and not be burdened with all these heavy batteries, and not worry if you have the charger? If we could transmit power wirelessly, think of all the machines that would become much more efficient."

Joshua Smith, a principal engineer at Intel, said in a separate interview that the company's researchers are able to wirelessly power the light bulb at a distance of several feet, with a 70 percent efficiency rate -- meaning that 30 percent of the energy is being lost during the power transfer.

Even so, "it's a big step," said Smith. Within a few years, he envisions having laptops that recharge themselves via a wireless connection if they're within 10 feet of a base station.

"You could certainly imagine integrating it into existing computer equipment," Smith added. "You'd have power hot spots in your house or office. Where you have a wireless hot spot, you could [also have a power hotspot] and get data and power there. That's the vision."

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Sharon Gaudin

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