An iPhone Charging In Midair Is The Coolest CES Demo I've Ever Seen

An iPhone Charging in Midair Is the Coolest CES Demo I've Ever Seen

Like calling those two-wheeled, self-balancing monstrosities hoverboards, the term 'wireless charging' has been incorrectly used to describe many technologies that really aren't. But for the first time ever, yesterday I held an iPhone in my hand that was charging without a single cable connected to it, and I was wowed. The Cota transmitter technology that makes this legitimate wireless charging technology work was developed by a company called Ossia who is planning to get it into consumer's hands by the end of the year. Let that sink in a little. Before 2016 is up, true wireless charging in your home will be a reality. Who cares about autonomous cars anymore?

An iPhone Charging in Midair Is the Coolest CES Demo I've Ever Seen

So how does Ossia's wireless charging system work? It might take a while to wrap your head around the technology, but it's remarkably clever. Devices that are able to charge from the Cota base station, which looks not unlike a glowing garbage can packed full of thousands of tiny antennas, need to be upgraded with a built-in RF receiving chip that doubles as a beacon.

An iPhone Charging in Midair Is the Coolest CES Demo I've Ever Seen

Having Ossia's Cota chip built into a device isn't completely essential for it to be able to charge wirelessly, but it's a more elegant solution. A smartphone without the chip inside would need to live inside a bulky wireless charging case, which isn't exactly ideal. Ossia is working towards further miniaturising the receiver chip so that smartphone makers are able to squeeze into their hardware, but it's still good to know that older devices can be upgraded with wireless charging powers through a case.

An iPhone Charging in Midair Is the Coolest CES Demo I've Ever Seen

One hundred times every second that Cota chip sends out an RF signal like a homing beacon that's picked up by the thousands of tiny antennas inside the larger Cota base station. Every last one of those tiny antennas detects that RF ping from a slightly different angle, and the base station responds by then sending wireless RF power back out in the exact same direction. Those wireless RF power signals take the exact same path as the original RF signals from the device did, just in the opposite direction, ensuring they arrive exactly where they're needed to efficiently charge a device.

It's complex stuff, but what's most important is that it works. The Cota hardware that Ossia plans to get into consumer's hands later this year has a range of about 3m, enough to wirelessly charge devices in a single room. But the company eventually plans to follow-up with larger base station units that are capable of blanketing an entire home with wireless power.

Are there compromises that come with the first generation of wireless charging? Definitely. Charging your phone wirelessly with just a single watt of power being beamed through the air means it will take up to four times as long as it does when charging with a cable.

And only a single device can be receiving power at one time. Through an app and some intelligent back-and-forth communications with multiple devices in range, the base station can triage which devices need charging first, and will automatically juggle between them based on their power demands.

An iPhone Charging in Midair Is the Coolest CES Demo I've Ever Seen

So don't expect a quick charging turnaround if you've got a stack of phones in need of power in a room. But to demonstrate other useful applications of the technology, Ossia has also developed a AA battery that will stay perpetually-charged as long as its within range of the Cota base station.

Imagine never having to change the batteries in your TV remote ever again. Is that enough to justify the system once it's finally available? Probably not for the average consumer, but if you're an early adopter, this is without a doubt one of the coolest technologies to arrive in the past decade.


Gizmodo's on the ground in Las Vegas! Follow all of our 2016 CES coverage here.



    Hmmm.... turbo cancer? Dunno just creeps me out having even more things bouncing around the house.

    You may not like current "wireless charging" but it is convenient in its own way and is at least only sending out short wave energy into my home.

    Last edited 08/01/16 12:47 pm

      Agree, its scarey to think the energy being displaced bombarding everything around it...

    Forget about the cancer guy⬆️, just hurry up with the technology already, been waiting since 1999.

    Someone's finally doing Tesla proud!

    The use of beam forming is very clever.

    Last edited 08/01/16 1:37 pm

    How much more does it cost to use this thing over a regular wired charger? My understanding is the holdup in this technology has been due to efficiency issues.

    Is any power lost via the wireless transmission? e.g. Does the wireless charging need to send 200% power to get the phone from 0 to 100% battery? Or is the efficiency comparable to a cable?

    Seems like an important piece of information to miss.

      I was thinking exactly the same thing. You've got to think there is at least some loss there. So it's got to cost more than charging from the wall. No big deal if you have solar but not great if you're stuck paying nasty electricity bills :(

      all the power loss is going into your brains. They should just rename it wireless cancer machine.

Join the discussion!

Trending Stories Right Now