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Peppermill: Microsoft Research’s prototype self-powered device

Microsoft Research’s prototype ‘Peppermill’ self-powered device.

Researchers from Microsoft’s lab in Cambridge, England, have created a media remote control called “Peppermill” that converts the twisting motion required to use it into energy needed to power it. It’s a research prototype, not a product, but it points to larger possibilities in the area of “human-powered user interaction.” Peppermill is an example of “user interface devices that are able to source their power from the physical effort involved in interacting with them, and thereby operate without the need for batteries,” write the Microsoft researchers, Nicolas Villar and Steve Hodges, in the paper they presented (PDF) at the international conference on Tangible, Embedded, and Embodied Interaction, or TIE 10. The project gets its name from the fact that the device looks a bit like a pepper grinder. Users hold it with two hands, using one to turn the knob at the top. The three buttons are used in conjunction with the knob for different inputs. For example, holding down the green button and turning the knob adjusts the volume. Peppermill includes a small motor, a circuit, a microcontroller and a radio transmitter.


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