The Null Device
Power from the people
One of the lesser-known casualties of the Age Of Terror: shoes that charge your phone batteries as you walk
. Invented by Sir Trevor Roper, of wind-up radio fame, they were all ready to go, and then shoes with embedded electronic devices suddenly became deeply unpopular:
"After 9/11, anyone wearing electric shoes would look like a bomber. That's what you have to watch with any electric kit that you carry nowadays," he muses. Richard Reid, who tried to blow up a plane by carrying explosives in his heels - which made customs officials particularly nervous about footwear - has a lot to answer for.
The shoes were one potential application of piezoelectric generation, which extracts energy from movements such as people walking or the vibrations of trains; plans exist to use this energy to power all sorts of things, from sensors and transmitters in railway goods cars to wireless controllers powered by button presses to MP3 players in jackets made of piezoelectric fabric:
Markys Cain, who runs the Sensor Knowledge Transfer Network at the National Physics Laboratory, hopes to see fabric that generates its own power using piezoelectric fibres woven into frequently moving joints such as elbows and knees.
Dr Swallow puts it simply: "Your iPod will run on so little power, and your trousers will contain so much."
With finger motion, Starner believed he could give a wireless keyboard enough power to transmit keystroke information to another device.
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