It seems pretty clear now that wearable computing devices - from eyewear to wristbands to rings to jeans - are going to be a big part of our immediate future. The next step on our inevitable evolution into cyborgs, some might say, but let's not dwell on that.
An adjacent area of research these days tackles the issue of how, exactly, to best power all these devices.
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According to a recent BBC report, researchers in Germany have proposed a new kind of smart shoe device that generates electricity with every step you take. The proposal, from research institute HSG-IMIT, is detailed in the latest issue of the journal Smart Materials and Structures.
The study proposes the use of two different kinds of "inductive energy harvesters," each radically miniaturized to fit into the sole of a standard-sized shoe. Both elements generate power by exploiting the motion between magnets and coils. "The use of energy harvesting techniques offers a way of supplying sensor systems without the need for batteries and maintenance," according to the research paper abstract.
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The first element, called the swing harvester, does just that and captures the swinging motion of your foot as you take a step. The second element - the shock harvester - grabs up energy every time your shoe strikes the ground.
The amount of energy generated from the device is relatively small - not enough to power a smartphone, say. But it might be enough to power small transmitters and sensors built into other wearables. Interestingly, the device was initially designed to provide self-lacing shoes for the elderly. Seriously. German engineers, they think of everything. You can check out the full study here.
via BBC News