January 3, 2011 at 3:25 pm

CES 2011: Power-Generating Piston Lets the Mobile Music Play

Out of everything related to computing, the battery remains the most stubborn resistor to Moore’s Law, refusing to double its performance every two years. To help device batteries last longer, forward-looking bag and apparel designers have integrated solar panels into clothing, backpacks and other garb for years, with varying degrees of success. Scott’s eVest line, for instance can help keep your music player alive throughout a sunny day of skiing or snowboarding, but for the most part, personal mobile solar power kits leave a lot to be desired — especially in urban settings or on cloudy days.

The nPower PEG (Personal Energy Generator), purported to be “the world’s first passive kinetic energy charger for hand-held electronic devices,” is set to be exhibited later this week at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas for the first time. It solves that solar problem by acting sort of like the reverse of the infamous ShakeWeight, gathering energy by bouncing along as you walk, bicycle, ski, or run.

Place the nPower PEG ($159) vertically in your bag or backpack, and hike (or whatever) as you usually would, and some of your kinetic energy will power your smartphone as you rock Slacker radio stations or any other music app on the trail, or wherever else you happen to find yourself. It would also come in handy for keeping your portables powered during a long day of urban hiking and commuting — especially considering that it requires no direct light in order to operate, unlike those solar vests.

Photos courtesy of nPower

After being introduced in prototype form at CES 2010 last January, the PEG went on to win the Consumer Electronics Association’s i-stage award, and went on sale this past summer in a “fully-commercialized” version. However, the company says it’s struggling to keep up with demand, and the devices are on back-order.

Music apps for playing back your own collection, cached internet radio stations, or even interacting with your surroundings, are getting better every month. But even the best of them consume battery power you might need for crucial communications — one of the drawbacks of this merging of the smartphone and the music player, given batteries slippage against Moore’s Law.

However, with an nPower PEG in your bag, the more portably you use your devices, the less often they’ll run out of power.