Josh Smith

Joshua R. Smith

Recent news

The New York Times, June 18, 2010: Bye-Bye Batteries: Radio Waves as a Low-Power Source

The Economist, June 10, 2010: Power from thin air

Our first paper on WREL (wireless power transfer system) published...see publications list below.

New York Times Jan 30, 2010: Smart Dust? Not Quite, but We're Getting There

The Times (UK) Jan 25, 2010: Meet Marvin, the robot that can plug itself in

Our robot Marvin launching CeBIT with Craig Barrett, Gov Schwarzenegger, and Chancellor Merkel.

Intel ads: "me" shaking hands with a robot; and my Chinese alter-ego who "pulls electricity from atmosphere".

Click here for older news items.

Effective February 1, I will be Associate Professor of Computer Science and Engineering and of Electrical Engineering at the University of Washington. I am now Principal Engineer at Intel Labs Seattle. My research interest is in the area of sensor systems: inventing new sensor systems, devising new ways to power them, and developing algorithms for using them. The research has application in the domains of ubiquitous computing, robotics, and HCI. I am currently working on 3 projects: novel sensors for robotic manipulation, resonant (non-radiative) wireless power transfer, and (radiative) wirelessly powered UHF-RFID-compatible sensing platforms.

I started Intel's WREL (Wireless Resonant Energy Link) project, which aims to transfer tens of watts wirelessly. Here is a recent NY Times article describing WREL as well as some of our robotics work).

I also lead a project called WISP (Wireless Identification and Sensing Platform). WISP is a battery-free platform for sensing and computation. It consists of a fully-programmable 16 bit microcontroller that is powered wirelessly, by radio waves: it harvests all the energy it needs from a standards-compliant UHF RFID reader. It also receives data from and sends data to the RFID reader.

I co-founded Intel's Personal Robotics project, a collaboration that includes Intel Research Seattle, Intel Research Pittsburgh, and colleagues at the University of Washington and Carnegie Mellon University. Here is a YouTube video demonstating our work on E-Field Pretouch for robot hand preshaping, and another showing arm alignment and grasping. This one shows the robot plugging itself in to an ordinary electrical outlet, by sensing the 60Hz electric field emitted from the outlet.

Educational Background

The title of my dissertation was Electric Field Imaging, "seeing" with electric fields. In the course of that work I created the first version of a product that is now in most Honda and some GM cars, produced under license from MIT. There is also an associated chip sold by Motorola. I have also worked in the field of digital watermarking---an early paper of mine became influential, measured by citations. After graduate school, I invented FiberFingerprint, a technology for establishing the authenticity of documents by fingerprinting irregularities in the paper's surface.





Electric Field Pretouch

Robots That Sense Before They Touch. Be sure to check out the video.


Here are some articles on WISP:

Sensors Without Batteries in Technology Review

Living Off Scraps of Energy in CNET news



School of Fish


Electric Field Imaging

Electric Field Imaging lets machines inexpensively sense in 3 dimensions, with high precision and fast update rates. For user interface applications, the user does not have to wear or hold anything, because the technique directly measures the bulk conductivity of the human body. It does not require a line of sight to the body being measured---thus a device can see what its user is doing, right through a plastic case or fabric seat cover.

The School of Fish below is an Active Network Sensing system I designed and built to for Electric Field Imaging applications.

FieldMouse Embedded in ordinary Mouse

School of Fish Active Network Sensing System

Product: NEC/Elesys Occupant Sensing System

Digital Watermarking / Steganography

Bringing signal detection techniques from EFI to a new domain, I published a paper on digital watermarking that has turned out to be influential, measured by citations. At Escher, we applied my data hiding methods to create a new form of postage for the nation of Singapore.

Steganographic Postage Symbology for Singapore

Security Data is steganographically encoded in the rectangular color field. Escher calls this symbology SpectraSeal.


Digital Watermarking is limited in that it can't be used to distinguish copies from the original. To overcome this limitation, I invented FiberFingerprint.

Every square centimeter of paper has a unique pattern of hills and valleys, like a human fingerprint. By properly imaging the surface, we can capture an image of the paper's "fingerprint," turn it into a code, and print that code on the item being secured (using a steganographic symbology, or a barcode, etc). If a valid item is copied, the machine readable data in the symbology will be copied, but not the paper's unique charcteristics. Thus when a copied item is verified, the data (encoded in the SpectraSeal) will not match the "fingerprint" of that piece of paper. The New York Times published a story about this work.