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Power Shorts: Shake your rear to charge your gear

At the ginormous Glastonbury music fest, it's all about dancing and other such kinetics. Vodafone supplies shorts that turn movement into power, and sleeping bags that do the same with body heat.

Leslie Katz Former Culture Editor
Leslie Katz led a team that explored the intersection of tech and culture, plus all manner of awe-inspiring science, from space to AI and archaeology. When she's not smithing words, she's probably playing online word games, tending to her garden or referring to herself in the third person.
  • Third place film critic, 2021 LA Press Club National Arts & Entertainment Journalism Awards
Leslie Katz
2 min read
Power Shorts

Who wears short-shorts...with gadget-charging capabilities? Attendees to the U.K.'s Isle of Wight music fest, that's who.

At the outdoor festival in Glastonbury, England, this weekend, mobile carrier Vodafone will try on its new Power Shorts, which harvest movement to boost the battery life of mobile devices. Need more power out there in the open field? Start dancing!

The shorts -- created with help from scientists at the University of Southampton -- incorporate a Power Pocket that contains foam-like ferroelectret materials with pockets of permanently charged surfaces. When the material gets squashed or deformed through movement, kinetic energy gets produced. Vodafone says a full day's walking and dancing will charge a smartphone for more than four hours (not much, but way more than campers can expect from those hawthorn-tree outlets).

We've spotted other kinetic methods of charging gadgets, of course, including a "piezoelectric" rubber material out of Princeton and Caltech that produces electricity when flexed and could one day find its way into shoes that power mobile devices as the user walks or runs. These shorts, however, mark the first pair of power-producing daisy dukes we've seen.

Fortunately for those who prefer exertion-free charging, the Power Pocket's also making a Wight appearance in Vodafone's Recharge Sleeping Bag, which harvests body heat via the "Seebeck effect," a process that produces a voltage from the temperature differences across a thermoelectric module.

In this case, such modules are printed on the fabric of the sleeping bag, which supposedly can transform an 8-hour snooze into 11 hours of smartphone battery life.

"One side of that is cold and the other is hot, and when you get a flow of heat through it you can create a voltage and a current," said Stephen Beeby, a professor of electronic systems at the University of Southampton who worked on the innovations. "Voltage and current together equals electrical power."

That's fine for those in tents, but given that rain threatens to turn this year's giant music festival into a giant muddy music festival, attendees might want to consider charging their gear with the Vodafone Booster Brolly that debuted at Isle of Wight last year. The prototype parasol keeps your phone charged and your head dry no matter what the crazy British climate throws your way.

Recgharge Sleeping Bag