The “low battery” warning on our phones is an invitation to powerlessness that all of us have experienced. It’s worse when you’re in a public place and can’t seem to find an available outlet to charge your electronic devices, panic rising by the second.
Amazon wants to change this scramble to find an outlet by bringing the outlet to you. And the outlet will be housed in a robot that would be built to look friendly — presumably so that you don’t notice that it’s stalking travelers.
This week, a U.S. patent filed by Amazon in 2015 was published for a power-charging robot that will come to your aid when you’re at the airport in need of an electrical outlet.
The robot that knows where you are
Here’s how it works: You will make a wireless request (perhaps with your last precious few moments of juice).The robot will find you in a crowd using sensor data.Through a cloud-based application, the robot can even find you automatically when your power hits below 10%. Nothing, of course is free, so the robot will ask you to watch an ad, complete a survey, or pay some money.
Then: the robot provides sweet, precious electricity to your phone or iPad or laptop.
The robot would be designed for public use in airports, hotels, and shopping malls—all locations where losing battery power can be particularly inconvenient. Of course, a device like this would be perfect for business travelers, who have become accustomed to carrying heavy external batteries or even bulky power strips.
According to the illustrative examples provided in the patent, what the robotic device will look like is subject to change. Some figures show it with a humanlike body that can store sticks of gum for purchase; others show it with a conical shape powered on wheels.
A way to avoid asking humans for help
The patent’s description outlines why a power-charging robot is needed. “It can be quite inconvenient to a user when one of these devices runs out of battery power. This is especially true if the user does not have an available charging adapter for the device,” the patent reads. “Users may find themselves asking friends, or even strangers, to borrow a charging adapter.”
Having to depend on the kindness of strangers? The horror.
In all seriousness though, not having to be tethered to a physical outlet would make charging our devices more convenient for all travelers. There is clearly an unmet market that an army of mobile-charging robots for your personal use can fill.
However, a patent doesn’t guarantee that the robot will become a reality for consumers to use. Until you have an Amazon robot at your beck and call, consider bringing a portable battery charger with you, so you don’t have to depend on an outlet. Or you can even bring along a power strip to the airport, so you can share the energy wealth with all your battery-deprived travelers.