The mobile phone has turned us into information age Supermen with incredible powers beyond the imagination of anyone in history, but a ridiculously artificial weakness. The human body can survive for three days without water, but modern man panics after only one as the battery indicator light starts flashing. Music festivals present the greatest concentration of desperately powerless young people outside of an anti-war protest, and “gathering in a muddy field to listen to bands from hundreds of yards away” couldn’t be more fun over function if it was a marshmallow castle. Which is why mobile phone companies have used them to present wonderfully ludicrous power options.
1. Hamster Power
This year’s South by Southwest festival featured a six-meter human hamster wheel, courtesy of Nokia. Connecting your mobile phone to the supply allowed you bitingly satirise the modern dependence on technology – and generate some adrenaline into the bargain (most satire doesn’t involve physical exercise).
This isn’t just funny, it’s a fantastic idea. We recommend that every school start allowing mobile phones as long as they’re powered by hamster wheel during lunch break and after school. And one generation later, hey presto, no obesity and Britain has every Olympic gold even remotely to do with running.
2. Electric Boogaloo
In 2008 Orange decide to harness the power of Dance! Not to save the community centre from crooked real estate developers, in stark contravention of everything movies have ever taught you, but to power phones, cameras, and various other gadgets people will insist on using at festivals instead of enjoying themselves. The Dance Charge was a weighted armband designed to harness kinetic energy, and was as good at that as it was at not looking like an adult-sized water-wing.
The system cryptically works by “weights and magnets”, making it unsuitable for Insane Clown Posse concerts. Preliminary calculations show that you would have to dance until you evolved extra feet to generate more power than an equivalent weight of spare batteries. On the upside, if Bez ever wears one he’ll generate more electricity to power a small Welsh fishing village. And if you don’t know who Bez is, why are you even reading about British music festivals?
3. T-Shirt Power
Orange spent the next three years hiring someone to find out what teenagers actually wear, and it turns out “arm bands” wasn’t it. The result is the Orange Sound Charge shirt which harnesses the energy from loud noises, of which there are many at a music festival. It upgrades the old dancecharge with modern additions like piezoelectric plating.
The thing is, personal piezolectric technology is still at the Tomorrow’s World level – there’s some brilliant science there and it would be fantastic if it worked. Which it doesn’t yet. While the core concept is sound (in both senses of the word), its existence is an admission that it doesn’t work yet. Or put it another way: if you had a revolutionary new energy generation prototype that was actually useful, would you give it to teenagers at a concert?