This Pi wireless charger will power your phone from a foot away
Wireless charging isn’t new, but Apple has seemingly rejuvenated the technology after announcing its iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, iPhone X and Apple Watch Series 3 will all ship with wireless charging as standard. The tech giant even unveiled its own charging plate, called AirPower, to charge all of these new devices.
Yet the reason why wireless charging still has limited appeal is because it requires both a plate and a device that work together, and for these gadgets to be in close proximity. A startup, founded by MIT alumni, wants to change this.
Called Pi, the desktop charger can reportedly power gadgets from up to a foot away, without any physical contact. It crucially works in any direction, too.
The most popular charging plates on the market today use Qi (pronounced “chee”) technology that uses so-called inductive and resonant chargers. This is the charging standard that has been built into the new iPhone range.
Inductive charging passes a charge between a transmitter on the plate and a receiver on the phone, when the two devices are close together, typically touching or separated by less than 7mm. The coils have to be aligned for the charging to work but some charging plates use multiple coils to reduce the need for such precision.
Resonant charging takes things a step further by using similar methods to those used in inductive charging while removing the need for the two devices to be touching or in close proximity.
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Pi uses a variation of the latter. Its bespoke “beam-forming algorithm” directs the required magnetic field to your phone, even if you’re moving around or have the phone in your hand. The resonant receiver sits in a phone case, called the Pi case, meaning any handset with a compatible case will work with the charger, in theory. The Pi charger also has the potential benefit of being able to charge multiple devices at the same time, so long as they’re all within this field.
“Pi is more than a work of art, it’s groundbreaking technology,” the company explains on its website. “Our patented power platform allows Pi to change the angle of a magnetic field to perfectly match the angle of your device – no more charging pads. It can charge up to four phones at full speed, or even more devices at reduced speed even if they’re moving. And it follows existing FCC safety guidelines. The result is safe, seamless power.”
The reference to FCC safety guidelines is key. Charging plates that transmit fields over longer distances have been criticised for posing a danger to human and animal health, and research into the technology is still in its relative infancy.
You can register your interest in Pi via the startup’s website, and prices for the charging plate are expected to be “well below $200.” Pi also told TechCrunch Disrupt that it plans to work with hardware manufacturers to integrate their technology into existing products, negating the need for the Pi case, and it is working on larger versions for offices, for example. The company also has plans to introduce a larger version of the Charger for conference tables later on.