As if printing your own desk toys and battle armor wasn’t enough, researchers up at the University of Washington have recently developed a method for transmitting data via Wi-Fi using 3D objects without the need for electricity.
The objects in question use a series of 3D springs, switches, and gears to translate motion into data and transmit them via ambient Wi-Fi signals from your everyday household Wi-Fi router.
It’s a lot simpler than you think: using the frequency of gear rotations, a built-in antenna turns the reflected data into a series of 0s and 1s that are decoded by a Wi-Fi receiver such as a smartphone or laptop. Think of it as Morse code told through Wi-Fi signals – the more frequent the rotations, the greater the frequency of 0s and 1s.
Apart from an anemometer, which measures wind speed, the researchers also created a scale and flowmeter for taking in water speed.
To further their designs, the team also created a series of widgets, namely a button, knob, and slider. All three widgets connect wirelessly to Wi-Fi receivers and can be used to troll friends by anonymously scrolling their internet browsers without them knowing.
Two smart objects with more practical purposes were also developed, namely a flowmeter attached to a bottle of Tide detergent, which notifies you when it’s time to order a new one, and a test tube holder which tracks the amount of liquid inside. They also created a method for imprinting iron onto 3D objects which, when analyzed by a smartphone’s magnetometer, transmits information about the item such as its manufacturer or how to use it.
Thankfully, the researchers were kind enough to make their designs available to the public, so your dream of printing your own wireless Tide bottle flowmeter is no longer fiction!