Ever since Satya Nadella took reins at Microsoft last year, he promised that the company would re-invent itself and introduce a culture of innovation and ingenuity, characteristics that detractors had long claimed were lost at the technology behemoth. This new approach seems to be paying off as the latest indications are that the research wing of the company is working on a new mobile charging project called AutoCharge.
True to its name, one of the goals of the project is to invent a seamless charging experience for smartphones: one where a user does not have to deal with charging pads or cables. The prototype system uses image recognition technology as well as solar power to identify devices nearby and start firing charging photons at it.
AutoCharge can use any light source to charge phones, including indoor lighting
According to Microsoft, their tests indicate that the experimental prototype has an identification time of approximately 0.3 seconds, after which it begins to charge devices almost as fast as existing wire chargers. While people may question the viability of solar charging, due to weak indoor lighting as well as the predisposition of users to carry their smartphones in their pockets where no light can enter, Microsoft claims that it has devised a method to overcome these challenges and is capable of making AutoCharge run 24 hours per day.
As for the design of the image-recognition technology, it is facilitated by an in-built camera that monitors a surface i.e. your table. Algorithms further detect when a smartphone is in need of a charge, and a rotating motor adjusts the direction of the charging beam so that it hits the device directly.
However, there is a slight catch. Only those smartphones that have integrated solar panels will be compatible with the AutoCharge. It will take some time before manufacturers are convinced to put solar panels on their devices, but if the product reaches mass consumer acceptance, this might be sooner than you think.
The full report by Microsoft outlining this prototype product can be viewed here.