Microsoft’s Backwards Thinking Pays Off with InstaLoad

Microsoft has unveiled a technology which means batteries can be installed either way round. It’s already earned the backing of Duracell.

According to Microsoft, battery installation is the type of issue which doesn’t create many tech help calls and complaints, but still acts as a niggle. It also argues its creation will be particularly suitable for situations where batteries have to be changed in poor lighting such as in flashlights used by campers.

The system, Instaload, works with most cylindrical batteries that are commercially available, such as AA and AAA, including both disposable and rechargeable types. The technology isn’t used with the batteries, but rather with the battery-operated device.

The way the device works is remarkably simple. Each end of the battery slot has both two negative contacts and one positive contact. The slots are shaped just right so that the positive end of a battery touches the positive contact but the battery can’t touch the negative contacts, and vice versa.

Though the most common benefit of Instaload is likely to be reducing minor hassles, particularly in devices where batteries have to be changed frequently, it can be used in more critical situations. AE Light, which manufactures police flashlights, says it will use the technology so that officers in a stressful situation can change batteries by touch alone, which it calls a major safety improvements.

Microsoft is looking to license the technology to device manufacturers. It’s offering a royalty-free license for products designed for people with hearing, learning or vision difficulties.

Instaload is the work of Microsoft’s lesser-known hardware division, which also produces mice and keyboards.