IDF is always a great place to get a glimpse of upcoming technology and while some portion of what you see there never quite makes it to the real market a trained eye can start to sense what ideas really have legs and are likely to keep going. This year, the stars that caught my attention were the consumer scale robots with Edison tech, and wireless everything.
On the second floor we got to watch a kind of “demo life” of a fellow using all of this wireless stuff and I admit I was fascinated. At his office space on the left was a pretty normal looking table that provided wireless power to any of the devices set upon it. Some other magic (don’t know where) allowed a WiDi connection to the big screen and he was trading files back and forth with his colleague by literally ‘pushing’ them from one device to the other.
In the next section he was at another little bistro table that charged his phone and laptop while he shared photos and clips with his friend, finally arriving at home where he dropped his phone in a bowl that (again) charged his phone by induction and he played a video game soccer match with his friend as both of their real-world and real-time faces appeared in game. And it appeared that all of this was real, operational, and presumably purchasable technology. (maybe – that last part was unclear if it was real or emulated)
While the whole demonstration was quite compelling the thing that seemed to hold it all together was power. Kick ass batteries have allowed ‘mobile’ to exist but ubiquitous wireless power even in small amounts would be another radical game-changer of a deal. It’s not a new idea – Tesla claimed to have cracked it over 100 years ago – but this demonstration really made me feel like it was imminent…or at least actually feasible. The simultaneous requirement to change the hardware to inductive batteries as well as deploy infrastructure to support it could prove crippling in the way electric car charging stations have been slow to get off the ground but…wow.
Conceptually I found myself really fascinated by the kind of life that world represented. What’s funny is how quickly my mind concludes “wires suck” after the relatively modest taste of wireless we have so far with WiFi and my iPhone. It seems very recently that I bought a big roll of Cat5 cable for our shop that never got used because the AirPort came out…and we never looked back. My newest iPad was purchased without the cell-data option and I’m kicking myself for my shortsightedness. Wireless anything generates a big, but somehow unexpected, boost to my general life. (not just work productivity) Wireless everything, including power…I don’t think we can really know what that life would look like because it’s the kind of thing that you quickly take for granted and forget was ever any different.