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Davis, California

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Charge you all night long

Just about every UC Davis student owns a cell phone, an iPod or another portable gizmo. Some of us might just be lazy, but many still face the struggle of plugging in devices to recharge – whether it’s finding the right cable or tripping over one in the dark.

Fortunately, the geniuses behind Powermat have found the perfect solution: wireless chargers.

The Powermat is a compact surfboard-shaped charging pad. When devices such as the iPhone, Blackberry or Nintendo DSi are outfitted with special sleeves and placed on the mat, they charge, cable-free. The Powermat’s LED indicators make it easy to find in the dark and it even plays a sound when it detects your device. It recharges any compatible device just as quickly as the traditional method but with more ease.

This technology is still fairly new and is evolving rapidly. Essentially a hack, Powermat enables wireless charging on the devices you already own. Its usefulness only comes from its early market release. New gadgets that will hit the market as early as next year will probably have this technology built right in. The Palm Pre Smartphone, an iPhone competitor, has had this capability for the past few months. Plus, if you ever thought the magnetic MagSafe power adapter on the Apple MacBook was cool, it isn’t anymore. Dell just showed off a new laptop, the Latitude Z, which charges wirelessly, completely doing away with cables.

Is it safe? Yes. It won’t harm any other electronics placed on or near it. You can even rest you arm on the Powermat without concern. If you are an engineer wondering about the technology behind it, it’s quite simple: electromagnetic induction charging.

So, does the Powermat have a catch? Unfortunately, yes. The price. The base unit costs nearly $99 alone. Although it comes with plenty of adapters for a variety of devices, gadget-specific sleeves cost an additional $30-40 per unit. Unless you have the money to spare, the price isn’t worth the offered convenience. The good news? It’s already available; you can even pick it up at the new Davis Target. But in the meantime, the rest of us should just wait until the price to charge your devices wirelessly drops and the technology becomes more widespread.

For more information and a video demo, please visit skattertech.com. Alex Chan-Kai, a junior UC Davis electrical engineer and a Skatter Tech contributor, will be publishing an in-depth review shortly.

SAHAS KATTA can be reached at features@theaggie.org.

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