A group of engineers and researchers out of the University of Washington (U.W.) and partially funded by Google Faculty Research Awards has invented a new method to stream video without assistance from large battery cells. Specifically, the unnamed technology, which has now been licensed to Jeeva Wireless, uses backscatter to send pixel data from a connected camera to another device for processing. In this case, that's a smartphone. For those who may not be aware, backscatter is different from other data delivery methods in that it effectively only reflects signals. By connecting an antenna directly to the pixels in a camera sensor and sending back signals of varying intensity via the method, the team was able to create a new HD video streaming. Best of all, it doesn't require any image processing or energy-hungry connectivity hardware. As a result, it doesn't need much power at all and can stream video in HD at as little as 1,000 to 10,000 times higher efficiency than current technologies.
For now, it does still require a battery due to the need to send signals out. However, with the smartphone or computer processing the raw pixel data, that battery does not need to be very big or charged very often. That device can be up to 14 feet away and still stream 720p HD videos at 10 frames. Presumably, Jeeva Wireless and any other who end up licensing the technology will use that advantage to improve the available camera-enabled glasses segment of the market. It also wouldn't be surprising to see Snap Inc. take interest in the new method for use in their next iteration of smart glasses. Another more obvious use would be with security systems utilizing cameras. Of course, using the camera would decrease the overall battery life of whatever electronic it is connected to for processing. But that's actually a much smaller problem because of how large those can be and the relatively small amount of energy required for that.
In the meantime, the researchers at U.W. are already looking beyond the limits of this invention. If video capturing glasses are going to really capture the imagination of the public, the next logical step is to create a similar technology that requires no battery at all. Theoretically, that's not an impossibility since backscatter technically only needs to reflect a signal. In fact, it can even theoretically provide enough power to drive a cellphone's text messaging or phone call requirements. So there may be a way to use backscatter to both receive power and send video without a battery. Whether or not that can be accomplished, on the other hand, is another matter entirely.