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Charger-seeking devices

Devices which automatically seek chargers
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There used to be an experimental automaton called a Testudo which gradually moved round in a circle in the dark, would move towards a light, avoid obstacles by backing away and turning after contact, back away from a light if it came too close, but crucially, when its battery was low it would go all the way towards the light and encounter a socket for recharging. This was over half a century ago.

Back to today. A laptop sits on a desk, a centimetre from its charger, unattended. After a while, the battery completely runs down. A mobile 'phone or a PDA has exactly the same problem. These devices are technologically inconceivably more advanced than the Testudo, yet they just sit there and let themselves go 'plink' when their batteries run down. This is extremely silly.

Therefore, i propose that battery-operated rechargeable devices have a Testudo mode which they enter once the battery level becomes critical. A mobile 'phone, for example, has the ability to detect a charger socket in the vicinity, proceeds to sprout wheels, move towards it, line itself up and plug in. It could recognise it in various ways - a particular radio frequency, an LED emitting a specific wavelength of light or even a distinctive shape such as that of a USB socket. In order to facilitate this, the relevant sockets are placed a given height above the floor which is equivalent to the height of the charger. Attachments are available for ordinary power sockets to provide the relevant facility in a room which is otherwise not available there.

This would of course mean that batteries would not run as low before charging was required because of this mode. However, an additional advantage is that smaller devices would be easier to find - they would automatically seek out power outlets of one kind or another.

nineteenthly, Feb 21 2010

Elmer and Elsie http://www.extremenxt.com/walter.htm
Found them! [nineteenthly, Feb 21 2010]

Go Home Phone Go_20Home_20Phone
It goes home after being dropped off somewhere [xaviergisz, Feb 21 2010]

Homing lamp Homing_20lamp
[xaviergisz, Feb 21 2010]

Electricity Thiefing Robot _27lectricity_20thiefing_20robot
[FlyingToaster, Feb 21 2010]

Swarming "Display Blocks" http://www.boingboi...t-for-swarming.html
Nice concept video for miniature mobile screens.
(Thanks [Dub]!) [Jinbish, Feb 23 2010]

Flocking Road Cones Flocking_20Road_20Cones
The HB classic [Jinbish, Feb 23 2010]

[link]






       One method of sensing a power source could be to measure electric field. This might lead to a very creepy effect whereby appliances move towards power outlets in the wall - congregating like miniature techno-zombies...
Jinbish, Feb 21 2010
  

       Maybe I'm jaded. Yes, it's quite possible that I am jaded. I will have to look into this.   

       But, anyway. This is sort of WIBNI and magic, not because of the intelligence required of said device, but because of the mechanics. And, as WIBNI/magic, it's not really a fun enough idea to rise above it.   

       Also, I am about to go to bed in a moment and leave my laptop alone.* If it were to start roaming around looking for a power source, it would be quite likely to knock over a bottle of pinot grigio which has a good 2/3rds of a glass left in it. Or, if it headed for the other power socket, it would scatter a pile of 28 wristwatches made in St. Petersburg (don't ask) and then fall off my desk, damaging its elf and waking me up.   

       So, on balance, [-]   

       *This is intended as a double entendre to introduce a note of humour.
MaxwellBuchanan, Feb 21 2010
  

       My Roomba floor-cleaning "robot" seeks out its recharging dock when it needs to. But it has wheels on it already, it needs a dedicated docking station, and it only makes it about half the time.   

       So this is baked, but is impractical for phones and laptops.   

       I like [bigsleep]'s idea better. Make a battery bot that seeks out devices and recharges them where they are.
baconbrain, Feb 22 2010
  

       And then they get pregnant with electricity. No orrery though.
Mustardface, Feb 22 2010
  

       [21Q], the sockets are arranged to be the same height above the floor. The appliances don't have to climb the walls. I mentioned an adapter for a socket, for example. I'm basically imagining either a docking-port style bay or a small slot like a USB. Incidentally, i'm now also imagining them daisy-chaining with another socket on the other end.   

       [MB], OK. Thanks for the heads-up about the humour by the way, i would honestly not have picked up on it myself. I haven't mentioned the mechanics, but i do have something in mind. I myself have a problem with clutter. Even so, the likes of the Roomba are able to negotiate clutter and plug themselves in. It could be an incentive for a decluttered room. A PDA or a mobile are quite a bit smaller than a roaming laptop, but the latter, come to think of it, could do the hoovering.   

       I have two or three mechanisms in mind for movement. One is to have two pairs of wheels set into the device at right angles, flush with the surface, bearing cogs. This would enable them to move around quite flexibly. Another is to have a sort of reverse mouse ball, moved about by a similar mechanism from within. A third is for the device to have a hovercraft propulsion system protected by a rolling sliding cover. Finally, the device could have legs and scuttle like an arthropod.   

       I will now look for [bigsleep]'s idea.
nineteenthly, Feb 22 2010
  

       wireless power transfer (e.g. Witricity), if we believe the hype, will be ubiquitous in a few years, thus making this (otherwise brilliant ;) idea unnecessary.
xaviergisz, Feb 22 2010
  

       [nineteenthly] a fifth would be to make the device jointed, and have it move inchworm-fashion. For some reason, that seems the most natural way for a cellphone to creep around.
mouseposture, Feb 22 2010
  

       Nice one! I think maybe it seems most natural to you. I would expect them to scuttle, possibly because they are vaguely trilobite-shaped.
nineteenthly, Feb 23 2010
  

       [Jinbish], that video is just awesome! Also makes me wonder about using CGI videos to illustrate ideas from here. Not going to happen, i think.
nineteenthly, Feb 23 2010
  

       I'm pretty certain Roomba's (small, self-controlled robotic vacuum cleaners) self-seek their recharging points - but they do it by dead-reckoning (they "learn" the layout of a room, and remember where their charging-point is W.R.T. where they are, and seek it when necc.)
Dub, Dec 06 2010
  

       Roombas don't dead reckon, at least not all the time. The docking station has a lighthouse function that it can home in on.
MechE, Dec 06 2010
  
      
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