The Pi wireless charger can charge five phones from a foot away

With the release of wireless charging on the iPhone 8 and iPhone X, we’re confident you’re about to see a lot more wireless charging technology pop up. 

One of the frustrating things about wireless charging at the moment is that you need to have your device, whether that’s your phone or your Apple Watch, sat directly on top of the charging pad in order for it to work. 

It’s impressive, and less fiddly than having to plug a charger into the bottom of your phone, but it's not really wireless. The real dream is wireless charging from a distance. Now it looks like a team might have cracked it. 

Pi, a company founded out of MIT, has created a wireless charger that is capable of charging multiple devices up to a foot away. The Pi Charger uses resonant induction, the same technique that Qi chargers (the industry standard) use, but can reach greater distances thanks to an algorithm.

Massive processing power, reasonable price

The beam-forming algorithm allows the Pi charger to identify where a device is, and emit a magnetic field to it. When speaking to TechCrunch, Pi co-founder John Macdonald, said this kind of algorithm has in the past required vast processing power, but his fellow co-founder Lixin Shi “came up with these matrices that could prove that you could get to an optimal solution in just two clock cycles on a simple microcontroller.”

And the technology seems to work. The company demonstrated charging four phones and one tablet simultaneously on stage during TechCrunch Disrupt San Francisco, an event showcasing game-changing and ‘disruptive’ technologies.

At present, in order for a device to be charged using the Pi charger, it needs to sit inside a special case, although Pi claims that future phones like the iPhone 8 won’t need a case in order to be charged by it. 

It's interesting that the iPhone 8 was directly name-checked, as obviously the Pi Charger will be in direct competition with Apple's recently announced multi-device charging pad, AirPower.

The speed of charging is also worth noting; if your device is directly next to the Pi charger it’ll charge at “full speed" while "the further the device is from the Pi, the slower it is.”

Pi plans to start shipping the Pi in 2018, and is planning for it to be “well under $200” (£148, AU$250). As we hear more about the Pi charger, we’ll let you know.

Andrew London

Andrew London is a writer at Velocity Partners. Prior to Velocity Partners, he was a staff writer at Future plc.