Uncharted Play: Meet the social enterprise that creates electricity from a soccer ball

CEWeek logoOur MakerHub team took a recent field trip to CEWeek 2016, a congregation of industry tech leaders showcasing the latest high-tech products – often before they launched – to media and industry professionals.

The marketing team at Harlem-based startup Uncharted Play spends an inordinate amount of time kicking soccer balls around and jumping rope. The staff not only reap heart-healthy benefits, but generate enough electricity to juice up powerful LED lamps and charge their mobile phones using a special device implanted within the sporting equipment which for them can be harnessed for social good. The proprietary technology is called M.O.R.E. short for “Motion-based, Off-grid, Renewable Energy”, the brainchild of Harvard-educated entrepreneur and inventor Jessica Matthews.

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Product engineer Dan Bish poses with the Soccket ball

The team has been working to create devices that can attach to any everyday object that moves. At CEWeek, the Uncharted Play booth was awash with baby strollers, suitcases, floor panels, and even benches outfitted with this technology – a prime example of social entrepreneurship as an untried innovation that could potentially raise living standards around the world.

In my opinion, entrepreneurship is the act of turning an idea into actual innovation. – Jessica Matthews, CEO of Uncharted Play Inc. 

Wheeling an unremarkable-looking baby stroller onstage, Matthews explained just how powerful kinetic energy-harvesting can be. “This stroller can charge your cellphone at six watts, which is six joules per second, which is one watt faster than an actual wall charger,” she said. “At low cost we can partner with manufacturers that make strollers to actually create energy harvesting strollers that with just minutes of walking, you get full charge on a cellphone.”

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The jump rope connects to an LED light for use in developing countries with irregular access to electricity.


Matthews makes her case at CEWeek 2016

Governments, corporations and investors have begun to subscribe to the clean energy proposition, recognizing both the vast market and urgent need for alternative energy sources. The startup recently closed what Matthews calls “the largest series A [seed funding] that any black woman has ever raised,” and for the last three years its gross profit margins have been doubling year on year. Uncharted Play’s flagship product is its Soccket ball, which Matthews created while earning her MBA at Harvard.

At the time, the contraption was essentially a shake-to-charge flashlight inside a hamster ball, Matthews recalls. The idea spawned when she visited family in Nigeria, where repeated power outages throughout the day were considered the norm. Today, 1.2 billion people across the world do not have access to reliable electricity.

Quite frankly, a world in motion should be powered by motion.

“At our company we believe that power is a human right and so wherever there are humans, that’s where we want to work,” Matthews asserted. While the patented micro-generators for each product are roughly identical, Uncharted Play has created distinct products for use in both the developed and developing world. For example, the Ludo soccer ball, designed for a US demographic, is geared toward philanthropy rather than powering an LED light so that children in impoverished communities can do homework after sunset. This future tech contains an internal tracking device that monitors how much people play with it. The more the users play with the ball, the more points they earn. They can then go online and donate those points to charitable projects funded by corporate sponsors.

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“We’ve designed our technology to be very much integratable into products that are used around the world, said Matthews. “Whether it’s chairs or floor panels or strollers here in the United States or wheelbarrows or soccer balls or whatnot that might be used in the developing world.”

Watch our full interview with product engineer, Dan Bish, below: