High-speed wireless via...laser pointers?

Here’s more news in the “Further Evidence That We Are, Right Now, Living In The Future” department. A group of scientists in Taiwan has invented a way to transmit data using commonly available laser pointers.

In an abstract and full paper,  the researchers from the National Taipei University of Technology explain how they used the pointers to achieve faster-than-Wi-Fi speeds.

They set up a Visible Light Communication system for demonstration using equipment that cost $600. They used red and green laser pointers because they were cheap and easy to acquire. Hai-Han Lu, one of the project leaders, even said that “hobbyists could do this at home.”


Gigabit Wi-Fi speeds on the way, but beware the draft

The part that might take more than a “hobbyist” level of skill to implement, however, was the replacement of the batteries in the laser pointers with a power source that could switch the lasers on and off rapidly about 500 million times per second.

The two laser pointers then flashed their red and green beams into the receivers positioned 10 meters away, and a multiplexer combined the two signals.

What they ended up with was a 500 megabits/sec. transmission over 10 meters with an error rate of one in 1 billion. That is pretty impressive.

From a practical standpoint, this technology could be used in places where radio transmissions (like wireless devices emit) are a no-no, like in a hospital or laboratory. So, where you can’t use Wi-Fi, you can use laser pointers.

You can’t walk through the beams without breaking the transmission, but at least you won’t get fried or disintegrated or anything.

With a successful demonstration of practical and efficient laser beam communications, another staple of science fiction writers is now reality. That leads to the question, what’s next? Personally, I’m hoping for hyperspace travel.

About the Author

Greg Crowe is a former GCN staff writer who covered mobile technology.

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Reader Comments

Tue, May 8, 2012

There's not really much new here. We used IRDa back in the day, and have been using fiber optics as transmission medium to use light to transmit data for many decades. They were novel in their choice of modulating devices, but there's nothing new or special in the scope of the technology. Certainly nothing futuristic or sci-fi.

Tue, May 8, 2012 Chis Mitchell Massachusetts

Essentially, free-space optics, with low bandwidth devices. The latter is the new part.

Tue, May 8, 2012 DT

Couldn't they remove the lens from the laser so it casts a broader beam? then they could point it at the cieling or wall and avoid some of the issues with breaking the beam by walking through it.

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