Getting a charge out of a plug-in revolution

Paul Mayne // Western News

Western students Murray Wu and Soojeong Choe are looking to change the face of the electrical outlet with V.O, a magnetic all-directional power adapter for making things a bit safer and easier around the house.

In the mind of Murray Wu, there is always a better way.

The fourth-year Economics student has applied that belief to a new way of looking at the traditional electric plug. Wu, along with a fourth-year Western Science student Soojeong Choe, is launching V.O, a magnetic omni-directional power adapter for all electronics.

Wu, a self-proclaimed consumer electronics fanatic, said the idea for the V.O (named for the shape of the adapter’s two pieces) came from the idea of making life easier and safer. Since April, a team of eight have worked their way through countless prototypes in order to perfect their idea.

“Things have changed so much over the last few years,” Wu said. “Hardware innovation is becoming so easy. We have 3D printing so cheaply available. What happens is, you can send in your 3D model and it can be printed it the same day. You can check it out that night and send any changes the next morning.

“What this enables you to do is rapid prototyping. What it means is we have 34 prototype versions to improve incrementally. You can have something come up so quickly.”

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Wu was so passionate about the adapter Choe knew he wanted in from the moment he first heard the idea.

“He pitched it to me in early May. I told him, ‘I’m in love with it,’” Choe said. “He showed me the product and it was super cool. In the last 100 years, technology has advanced but one thing that hasn’t kept up is the electric plug.”

V.O recesses all its metal plates into a shock resistant-casing, which is completely child safe, since it conducts electricity only when the two parts of V.O are connected. The magnets also prevent tripping hazards by disconnecting once an excessive force is applied, similar to the Apple laptop chargers.

“When I look at things, I try and bring a different angle to it,” Wu said. “We are all so used to it, we were born into it, and we haven’t changed it. We figure it should be done like that, but actually, there is a better way. There are many things in life that are improving this way.

“Wireless charging is a big thing, but when you transmit energy through air it is either weak or unsafe. I don’t think wireless transmission is going to be evolving that fast to say you can wirelessly charge a hairdryer. What’s the next best solution, you don’t actually have to plug it in, you just stick it on the wall.”

Wu has one patent issued, with two others pending, on the V.O.

The team will launch a Kickstarter fundraising campaign Oct. 20, with a goal of $50,000, which will go a long way in helping cover costs for Canadian Standards Association and Underwriters Laboratories certification, along with plastic moulding costs.

Choe said they are cautiously optimistic they will reach their goal, noting ZNAPS, a specially designed magnetic connection adapter for mobile devices, recently brought in more than $3 million on Kickstarter earlier this year.

“Things are pretty overwhelming at this point, but we’re also really excited,” Choe said.

If funded, the first batch of V.O adapters will be ready for end of January to be sold on their website, voadapter.com.

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