SiliconFreak -> Human Batteries - Power it up Scotty (8/5/2004 6:59:56 AM)
Singapore scientists are looking at how the body can generate electricity to run mobile devices
OUT go the batteries and in comes a pair of walking shoes that can power up your MP3 player, mobile phone or digital camera as you go window-shopping in Orchard Road.
This is the dream of National University of Singapore (NUS) and Defence Science and Technology Agency (DSTA) scientists, who are studying how the body can be used to generate electricity.
One way is to fix some piezo-electric material, in this case ceramic, on the soles of a pair of shoes, said the team's leader, NUS Assistant Professor Adrian Cheok, at a conference on mobile technology yesterday. When the wearer of the shoes walks, the soles press down on the material to produce electricity, he explained.
Enough current can be produced to run portable gadgets such as radio players and watches.
The research has been going on for two years and is nearly complete. Making commercial products out of their work is the likely next step.
The DSTA-funded project will find use in military applications first.
DSTA project manager Choo Hui Wei told The Straits Times yesterday: 'This project was an exploratory research study which aimed to look into the feasibility of tapping the human body as a conducting medium for transmitting data.
'The results from the research have shown potential and we're currently assessing how we can adapt the technology and apply it in the military environment.'
Electricity produced in this manner can even be used for transferring data from one person to another via the skin, said Prof Cheok.
For instance, a handshake can mean an automatic exchange of business cards electronically between the handheld computers of both persons.
The human body thus becomes another device, together with mobile phones and digital entertainment gadgets like MP3 players, in what is called a personal area network (PAN).
The team at NUS works from a laboratory called Mixed Reality. More information about the lab can be found at mixedreality.nus.edu.sg
Since 1996, researchers at IBM, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the United States and other places have been been working on the technology.
The interest now is in harnessing human power to drive the PAN devices.
Yesterday's Mobility Conference, held at the Orchard Hotel, was the first organised by Computer Human Interaction, the Singapore Chapter of the Association of Computer Machinery Special Interest Group.
Other speakers at the three-day conference, which ends tomorrow, shared their research on mobile devices and networks.
Today, Professor Luca Chittaro from the University of Udine in Italy will present a paper on how to make information on mobile devices easier to view.
This is a challenge because while mobile devices like phones and personal digital assistants are getting smaller, a greater volume of information is available on them for viewing, he told The Straits Times.
Another researcher, Professor Zary Segall from the University of Maryland in the US, spoke yesterday about building devices that learn how to work better with humans, to make computing simple.
He said: 'We're trying to see how to make computers more human-literate, rather than making humans computer-literate.'
Source : TST