Low-power solutions: energy harvesting and cultural implications

Last November, Richard Smith gave a talk on potential power sources for OLPC at the Energy Harvesting USA conference.

Ars Technica recently reviewed the XO-3 and XO-1.75 with an eye towards the future implications of low-power computing, discussing power generation by hand, by bike, and by water wheel as well as through solar panels.

Of course we’re not done with the low-power revolution; phones and computers – even the latest XOs – are still too power hungry to be quickly and easily charged by ambient light (as solar calculators are) or by hand (despite the simplicity of hand cranks, legs are much better suited for generating power than arms and hands). So while alternate charging works it requires explicit attention and preparation.

But in places without electrical infrastructure that have some steady source of power, computers and computing can increasingly be part of everyday life.