The notion of capturing the energy generated by even the most casual stroll or everyday motion has been around for years now – the nPower PEG was introduced at CES in 2009 – but three Northwestern University Ph.D. candidates have improved the concept to make it smaller and more efficient in the form of a fashionable wearable.
The result is Ampy, which is roughly half the size of an average smartphone and can be strapped to an arm, leg or hip, or just carried around in a bag where it will charge via a proprietary linear inductor. Similar technologies utilize a magnet that slides back and forth through a coil, converting kinetic energy into electricity. Ampy harvests that electricity and stores it in an internal lithium ion battery for later use charging devices via its USB port.
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"We came up with a new proprietary architecture for inductors that allows us to generate significant power in a small form factor," Tejas Shastry, CEO and Co-Founder of AMPY told me via email. "Inductors on the marketplace used for kinetic charging are the size of a paper towel roll (like those in the nPower PEG and Genneo). We figured out a way to make them much smaller and deliver similar power."
Ampy's creators claim that 1 hour of cycling, 30 minutes of jogging or 10,000 steps of walking in a day will produce enough of a charge to add three hours of life to your smartphone battery. Ampy has 1,000 mAh of storage, which would charge a typical smartphone from dead to about 50 to 75 percent of its total battery capacity. For smaller devices like smartwatches and fitness trackers, you should be able to fully charge the device off of a fully juiced Ampy.
Ampy's connected smartphone app will track how much energy you've generated, the amount of calories you've burned and your carbon footprint offset.
Ampy also offers a separate accessory kit that comes with a clip, sleeve and strap to wear it on your belt, limbs or in a bag. While nPower and other larger kinetic chargers targeted hikers and campers who might carry a bigger power stick into the wilderness, Ampy is clearly more aimed at the broad cross-section of consumers who would consider wearing a fitness tracker around town and to the office.
"This scale opens up a whole new realm of possibilities, and in the future, we see our technology being integrated directly into smartwatches, fitness trackers, and other wearables," Shastry said.
Ampy weighs 100 g (3.53-oz) and measures 3 inches square (7.62 cm) and .75 inches (1.95 cm) thick. A Kickstarter campaign for the product launched this week and has quickly raised about a third of its $100,000 goal. Early backers can get in line to receive an Ampy for as little as US$75 for estimated delivery in June of next year. Later on, it'll cost $95.
You can see the full Kickstarter pitch video below.