Harnessing the power of play for energy

Creating reliable sources of electricity in the developing world continues to be an enormous challenge as the necessary infrastructure lags behind.  The founder of the renewable energy company Uncharted Play has created an unusual solution.

TRANSCRIPT

CREATING RELIABLE SOURCES OF ELECTRICITY IN THE DEVELOPING WORLD CONTINUES TO BE AN ENORMOUS CHALLENGE AS THE NECESSARY INFRASTRUCTURE LAGS BEHIND.

BUT ONE CREATIVE WOMAN, JESSICA MATTHEWS, HAS COME UP WITH A SOLUTION.

FOUNDER OF THE RENEWABLE-ENERGY COMPANY UNCHARTED PLAY, MATTHEWS HAS DEVELOPED ENERGY-GENERATING SOCCER BALLS AND JUMP ROPES WHICH CAN POWER LIGHTS FOR HOURS ON END.

IN OTHER WORDS, MATTHEWS HAS FOUND A WAY TO HARNESS ENERGY RESULTING FROM FUN.

SO, WE GOT TO TALK ABOUT THE PROPS FIRST.

THE SOCCER BALL DOES WHAT?

SURE.

SO, THE SOCCER BALL IS A SOCCER BALL, FIRST AND FOREMOST.

SO YOU CAN PLAY WITH IT, YOU CAN KICK IT, USE IT LIKE A NORMAL SOCCER BALL.

BUT IT ALSO HARNESSES THE KINETIC ENERGY THAT'S GENERATED DURING PLAY AND STORES THIS POWER INSIDE THE BALL.

SO YOU CAN USE IT AS AN OFF-GRID POWER SOURCE.

SO, WHY?

WHAT'S STORING THE POWER INSIDE THERE.

SO, WE USE A RECHARGEABLE LITHIUM-ION BATTERY, SIMILAR TO WHAT YOU MIGHT EVEN FIND IN YOUR CELLPHONE, INSIDE THIS BALL.

AND SO, WITH JUST THE ROTATION OF THE BALL, WE HAVE A MECHANISM THAT'S ALSO ROTATING CONSISTENTLY.

AND THAT'S ACTUALLY WHAT'S CHARGING THE BATTERY INSIDE THE BALL.

SO, THERE'S, LIKE, A LITTLE GYROSCOPE INSIDE THE MIDDLE OF THE SOCCER BALL?

A MINI GYROSCOPE.

OUR TECHNOLOGY IS CALLED M.O.R.E.

THAT'S AN ACRONYM THAT STANDS FOR MOTION-BASED OFF-GRID RENEWABLE ENERGY.

AND THAT'S A TRADEMARKED TERM THAT IS CURRENTLY COVERED BY SEVEN PATENTS AND PATENTS PENDING, THAT ESSENTIALLY IS OUR UNIQUE PROPRIETARY FORM OF A MICRO-GENERATOR...

OKAY.

...THAT WE INCORPORATE INTO THESE TWO PRODUCTS, AND SOON, LOTS OF DIFFERENT PRODUCTS.

SO IT'S SORT OF A MIX OF A DYNAMO GENERATOR, AS YOU WOULD EXPECT, BUT IT'S DESIGNED IN A WAY THAT'S VERY MODULAR.

SO IT CAN BE INSERTED INTO PRODUCTS LIKE SOCCER BALLS AND LIKE JUMP ROPES WITHOUT REALLY NEGATIVELY AFFECTING THE ORIGINAL FUNCTIONALITY OF THE PRODUCT.

SO, IS IT GETTING MORE POWER, THE HARDER I KICK IT?

OR JUST BECAUSE THE BALL IS ROLLING?

HOW DOES THE GENERATOR WORK?

SO, THE IDEA IS REALLY ABOUT FREQUENCY OF MOTION, RIGHT?

FREQUENCY OF MOTION AND CONSISTENCY OF THAT MOTION.

SO, FOR US, THE GOAL WASN'T TO SAY, YOU KNOW, 'LET'S NOT MAKE THIS SOME SORT OF CARNIVAL GAME, AND SEE HOW HARD YOU CAN KICK THE BALL.'

THE IDEA IS TO REALLY LOOK AT HOW WE CAN AMPLIFY EXISTING BEHAVIOR.

THE THING THAT A SOCCER BALL IS OFTEN DOING, MOST TIMES THROUGHOUT A GAME, IS ROLLING.

SO WE DESIGNED THE MECHANISM TO MAKE SURE THAT IT'S TAKING ADVANTAGE OF THE ROLLING SYSTEM.

THE PULSE JUMP ROPE IS THE SAME WAY.

WE HAVE OUR M.O.R.E. TECHNOLOGY IN EACH HANDLE.

AND A JUMP ROPE IS PERFECT FOR CONSISTENT MOTION, RIGHT?

OH, IT'S -- I -- I'M A BOXER, AMATEUR, FOR FUN.

[ CHUCKLES ] AND I USE THIS EVERY SINGLE DAY, DURING MY WORKOUTS.

I LOVE IT.

IN FACT, I'VE LOST OVER 50 POUNDS JUST FROM WORKING OUT WITH THIS, OVER THE LAST YEAR.

AND HOW MANY WATTS HAVE YOU GENERATED WHILE YOU'RE JUMPING?

[ LAUGHS ]

I HAVEN'T KEPT TRACK OF THAT.

[ CHUCKLES ] THIS IS -- IT'S FUNNY, WE ALSO HAVE AN ADAPTOR THAT YOU CAN USE TO CHARGE, BASICALLY, AN EMERGENCY BATTERY FOR YOUR CELLPHONE WITH THE JUMP ROPE.

AND SO I'VE BEEN ABLE TO USE IT FOR THAT, USE IT FOR CAMPING.

WE HAVE REALLY COOL LAMPS THAT NOW COME WITH THE PRODUCTS, THAT WE DISTRIBUTE WORLDWIDE.

SO, THE POWER IS IN THE HANDLE BECAUSE YOU'VE BEEN SPINNING IT OVER AND OVER AGAIN.

LITERALLY IN THE HANDLE, EXACTLY.

WE LITERALLY HAVE THE M.O.R.E.

TECHNOLOGY INSIDE EACH HANDLE.

AND AS YOU'RE JUMPING...

SURE.

...THE ROPE IS TURNING THIS SYSTEM, RECHARGING A LITHIUM-ION BATTERY THAT YOU CAN THEN JUST PLUG RIGHT INTO...

WOW. SO, YOU'VE GOT L.E.D.

LIGHTS THAT ARE POWERED BY...

YES, YES, YES.

AND SO THIS IS REALLY EXCITING, BECAUSE, AGAIN, IT'S REALLY ABOUT INTRODUCING PEOPLE TO THIS IDEA OF AMPLIFYING EXISTING BEHAVIOR AND GETTING MORE OUT OF LIFE.

IN PARTICULAR, ENERGY ACCESS IS, IN MY MIND, ONE OF THE MOST CORE ATROCITIES THAT WE HAVE TO ADDRESS TO REALLY PULL EVERYTHING TOGETHER.

IT'S RELATED TO EDUCATION, IT'S RELATED TO UPWARD MOBILITY, IT'S RELATED TO EVEN, IN TERMS, SOMETIMES, GENDER EQUALITY AND POVERTY.

AND IT'S -- IT'S SOMETHING THAT I THINK PEOPLE OFTEN SEE AS A VERY LARGE ISSUE THAT VERY FEW INDIVIDUALS CAN EVER ACTIVELY MAKE A DIFFERENCE IN, HAVE AGENCY IN TRYING TO ADDRESS THE STATUS QUO.

AND THE IDEA OF THESE PRODUCTS IS TO REALLY SPARK A DIFFERENT MENTALITY IN THAT THINKING, TO SHOW PEOPLE THAT NOT ONLY DOES THEIR INDIVIDUAL EFFORT BECOME SOMETHING THAT COULD BE MEANINGFUL, NOT ONLY IS THAT SOMETHING THAT COULD BE WORTHWHILE TO ADDRESS AN ISSUE OF HAVING ACCESS TO CLEAN, RENEWABLE POWER ON DEMAND.

BUT THAT DOESN'T HAVE TO BE A DEBBIE-DOWNER CONVERSATION.

IT CAN BE FROM FUN.

YOU CAN GET THE WIN-WIN WHEN YOU'RE DOING THINGS THAT YOU ENJOY AND THAT YOU LOVE AND THAT YOU'D BE DOING ANYWAY, AND GET THE POWER YOU NEED, AS WELL.

YOU'RE STILL TALKING ABOUT A MARKET SIZE THAT'S -- WHAT -- 1.5 BILLION, 2 BILLION PEOPLE THAT DON'T HAVE ACCESS TO ELECTRICITY EVERY DAY?

WELL, SO, FOR THESE IN PARTICULAR, WE DESIGNED THEM FOR THE DEVELOPING WORLD -- A PLACE WHERE ACTUALLY THERE ARE OVER 2 BILLION PEOPLE WORLDWIDE THAT HAVE EITHER NO, OR VERY POOR, ACCESS TO ELECTRICITY.

AND SO THESE ARE PEOPLE WHO MAY OR MAY NOT BE CONNECTED TO A 'GRID.'

BUT THE REALITY IS THAT THE GRID CAN'T SCALE.

I AM A DUAL CITIZEN OF NIGERIA AND THE UNITED STATES.

AND IN NIGERIA, JUST LIKE IN MANY OTHER PLACES IN THE GLOBAL SOUTH, THE REALITY OF THE SITUATION IS THAT YOU'RE GOING TO LOSE POWER SEVERAL TIMES A DAY.

YOUR DAY WILL PROBABLY END WHEN THE SUN GOES DOWN.

AND IF YOU WANT LIGHTS -- NOTHING TO SAY THE LEAST OF JUST GENERAL POWER -- IF YOU JUST WANT LIGHT, YOU'RE GOING TO END UP USING EITHER A KEROSENE LAMP OR A DIESEL GENERATOR, BOTH OF WHICH ARE HORRIBLE FOR THE ENVIRONMENT AND HORRIBLE FOR THE PEOPLE WHO HAVE TO ACTUALLY LIVE IN THE SPACE WITH THOSE ITEMS.

AND SO YOU KIND OF HAVE THIS COMPOUNDED ISSUE WHERE YOU'RE NOT JUST SITTING THERE LOOKING FOR LIGHT JUST TO DO YOUR HOMEWORK.

YOU'RE SITTING THERE DEVELOPING CANCER -- LITERALLY DEVELOPING CANCER -- BECAUSE YOU'RE BREATHING IN THE FUMES FROM THIS KEROSENE GENERATOR.

AND SO THESE PRODUCTS ARE DESIGNED TO ADDRESS THAT SHORT-TERM ISSUE, REPLACING THOSE ITEMS.

BUT I THINK, MORE IMPORTANTLY, REALLY HIGHLIGHT A LONGER-TERM OPPORTUNITY TO EMPOWER PEOPLE AROUND THE IDEA OF WHAT'S POSSIBLE WITH ENERGY.

IN PARTICULAR, TO REALLY HIGHLIGHT WHAT'S POSSIBLE AROUND MOTION-BASED ENERGY AND KINETIC ENERGY, WHICH IS ONE OF THE MOST UNDERUTILIZED FORMS OF ENERGY AROUND THE WORLD.

AND SO WE'RE LOOKING AT INTEGRATING OUR TECHNOLOGY ULTIMATELY INTO EVERYTHING THAT MOVES.

WE IMAGINE A WORLD WHERE WE PARTNER WITH O.E.M.s AND OTHER DEVELOPERS OF MANUFACTURED PRODUCTS THAT ARE CONSTANTLY IN MOTION, LIKE WHEELS.

THAT CAN BE USED TO NOT ONLY PROVIDE MOBILE POWER, BECAUSE, QUITE FRANKLY, WE LIVE IN A WORLD WHERE, IF ANYTHING CAN CHARGE YOUR CELLPHONE, IT SHOULD.

BUT I THINK, IN PARTICULAR, TO LOOK AT THE IoT AND SENSORS AND THE SMART-GRID WORLD THAT WE'RE TRYING TO GET TO -- THIS WORLD THAT WE KEEP TALKING ABOUT.

BUT IF YOU HAVE TO KEEP CHANGING THE BATTERIES ON YOUR SENSOR, YOU KNOW, THE ACTUAL ADAPTABILITY AND CONSUMER ADOPTION IS QUESTIONABLE, AT BEST.

SO WE'RE REAL EXCITED TO SHOW THE WORLD HOW WE STARTED WITH PLAY, PULL PEOPLE INTO THE NARRATIVE IN THIS REALLY EXCITING WAY, BUT THEN KEEP THEM HERE WITH REAL, HONEST, EXCITING TECHNOLOGY THAT I THINK IS GOING TO ENTIRELY DISRUPT THE WAY WE CONSUME ENERGY FOREVER.

[ Chuckling ] ALL RIGHT.

A NOT-SMALL GOAL.

YES, WELL, GO BIG, GO HOME, RIGHT?

[ LAUGHS ]

THAT'S RIGHT.

THE COMPANY IS UNCHARTED PLAY.

JESSICA MATTHEWS, THANKS SO MUCH FOR JOINING US.

THANK YOU SO MUCH.