Eric Giler points a remote control at a small black pad leaned up against a wall, and three lamps instantly light up and a tablet computer starts charging. The funny thing is, the devices all sit several feet away from the black pad, which provides power, and aren't plugged in.
Giler is the CEO of Witricity, a startup that hopes to revolutionize electronics by replacing wireless charging systems with ones that send power safely through the air. The nearly five-year-old company uses technology developed at MIT that extends the range of inductive wireless charging.
Witricity says its first products—for charging portable electronics—could be on the market later this year. Within a year or two, similar technology could allow electric-vehicle owners to charge their cars without plugging them in. This could be followed by wireless power for heart pumps and other medical implants.
The idea of wireless power transfer is hardly new. Nikola Tesla demonstrated a version of it a hundred years ago, and inductive chargers for electric toothbrushes and video game controllers are now widespread. But the inductive chargers available today work over only very short distances and require physical contact between the charger and electronic device, which isn't much more convenient than plugging a device in.