Uncharted Play Inc. has developed an energy-harvesting soccer bar that can save and generate 6W of energy through a mechanism inside the ball. The company is developing accessories like an LED light that can be used to provide electricity to people in regions of the world where they have little or no access to it. (Source: Uncharted Play Inc.)
I like the bicycle idea. Along the same lines, my wife has a hand-cranked flashlight that uses. You never need to worry about batteries or solar charge, just crank the flashlight up any time you need it.
I was thinking of the bicycle generator as well, Designist. It seems to be a mode of transportation that is available even in some of the inaccessible areas and probably has the potential to produce a lot more energy.
I do, however, like the soccer ball idea. With multiple, removable batteries you could take care of some (very basic) needs. Since full charge seems to be attained after only 30 minutes, a few more batteries could easily be charged during an average set of play time.
My thoughts are similar to Tim's, since I live in the rainy, windy tall redwood tree forest where we have regular power outages. While I'd rather not have to kick a soccer ball to harvest energy, I bet the basic technology could be adapted to a more home-friendly power source. Why not a stationary exercise-type bicycle?
Now that is a good idea as well, the Designist. Uncharted Play came up with this idea because it is something fairly inexpensive and universal (nearly every country in the world plays soccer, and it really is a the main sport of the less-develped world). But bicycles also are very popular in similar regions, so you've hit on something. With all the progress being made in energy harvesting, perhaps that will be next. Thanks for your comment.
Hi, Corona, yes, Uncharted Play seems to be thinking of things that could actually be worthwhile to people living in underdeveloped regions, but also of applications for people who already have access to electricity. I think this product could have broad appeal. But of course, helping providing access to electricity in areas where it's limited is certainly the focus at the moment.
Yes, making the kids exercise to generate the electricity needed to power their electronic devices can also promote fitness (I say this tongue-in-cheek). Now every kid will be able to earn the Presidential Physical Fitness Award.
Yes, this is real, as you said, Dave. Some students at Purdue a few years ago developed a tile floor that's being used in an airport to generate very tiny amounts of current. Every time someone steps on a tile and it bends, the system harvests some energy from the flexure of the floor. And, yes, it's real.
Why not just use coconuts and a bicycle, like the professor did on Gilligan's Island?
Joking aside, a bicycle with a generator would be more efficient, and importantly more practical. Efficiency also exposes that energy conservation can not be overcome with fads. Just my humble opinion.