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This lamp wants to replace your Wi-Fi with light, but it can't

Oledcomm's MyLiFi really wants broadcasting the internet over light to be the future, but the future isn't here yet.

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It might not look like it, but this could be the future of the internet.

Sean Buckley/CNET

A few years ago, engineers came up with an incredible, amazing idea. What if we could piggyback internet connectivity on the lights that fill our homes, offices and cities? Imagine it: anywhere the light touches, you could have internet. No more looking for finicky airport Wi-Fi. No more internet passwords. Best of all? You'd never have to worry about your neighbor stealing your Wi-Fi ever again.

In concept, the idea always worked, but we've never actually seen it in action. Until now. At CES 2018, we ran into Oledcomm's MyLiFi, a desktop lamp that, you guessed it, can beam the internet to your PC using lightwaves.

Sadly, it's not quite the future we hoped.

The MyLifi lamp does exactly what it promises, but it's just a little awkward. Yes, it delivers a stable internet connection to any compatible device illuminated by its glow, but it's a desktop lamp. That's just not a lot of space. The technology it uses is also not ubiquitous, meaning that to get access to that connection, you'll need to tether your PC to a dongle for it to work.

So if it has a short range and a cumbersome dongle, why use LiFi at all? For one thing, Oledcomm argues it's more secure than Wi-Fi and that the network can only be accessed by persons in the same room as the light source. You can't hack a network if you can't get on it. Representatives at CES also claim that it's a good alternative for folks who are worried that long-term exposure to Wi-Fi could be dangerous.

There's also a huge potential for speed -- in lab tests, LiFi technology has shown the potential to reach speeds upwards of 224 Gigabits per second. Sadly, Oledcomm's desk lamp tops out at just 23 mb/s. On top of that, a single lamp will set you back a whopping $840. Yikes. (That converts to AU$1070, £620.)

Right now MyLiFi isn't a practical technology, but the idea behind it is still great. It's a unique, baby-step forward towards a new, versatile way to connect to the internet. It's just not ready for prime time.

Maybe that's okay. For now.

PC preview​: What to expect from laptops, desktops and tablets at CES this year.

CES 2018: CNET's complete coverage of tech's biggest show.