Thursday, September 29, 2011

The sOccket - the idea that will give more people access to Footballs...and electricity!

Every once in a while comes an invention that blows our minds away. This is one of those moments and I’m proud to have gotten the chance to get glimpse of the minds behind this incredible invention. It is called the “sOccket”.

It’s a Football, that is an eco-friendly portable generator. Sounds crazy, but it’s true. Basically the more you kick the ball, the more energy is stored within the ball which is then used as an actual socket to plug a device...into the ball. It’s a genius idea, and one that should, hopefully, reach all corners of the globe. I had the chance to ask the team of "sOccket" a few questions and here’s what they had to say:

TFS: Thanks for taking the time to answer a few of our questions. We’re really in awe about this whole project and we do hope it can go on to greater heights. To start off, could you give us a short brief about how the sOccket idea came about?

sOccket: The idea for sOccket came out of an Engineering Class at Harvard University in the fall of 2008, where Uncharted Play co-founders Julia Silverman and Jessica Matthews were part of a group tasked with creating a "massively multiplayer game."  After a few false starts, they stumbled upon an idea to address the energy needs of the developing world using the most popular game of all: SOCCER. And so sOccket - the soccer ball generator - was born.

TFS: What are the long term goals of SOccket?

The long term goals are to produce and distribute the ball to children in resource poor communities around the world in order to spread power access, hope, and happiness.
TFS: Do you think at any point that SOccket balls will be played with by professional footballers in professional leagues? If yes, why? If no, why not?

The sOccket has several crucial differences from a regular soccer ball:
a)  It stores electricity -   obviously, normal balls are not portable generators!  The mechanism inside the ball makes the balance and weight distribution of the sOccket different from a game ball.
b)  It has extremely high durability -   the sOccket is designed to be played with in all conditions around the world, not just the green grass of a normal soccer field.  Because of this, we decided to make the ball out of very durable foam paneling, which allows the sOccket to last for 5 to 10 years instead of just a couple weeks.  Our ball is also water-resistant - rain or shine, the sOccket power can’t be stopped! 

c) It is designed with resource poor areas in mind -  Most children around the world do not have a real ball to play soccer with.  Instead, they use whatever is available, like a bundle of plastic bags, an empty bottle, or a piece of garbage.  While professional players will be able to notice the difference between a regulation ball and a sOccket, the children in need around the world will not mind the difference in weight distribution.

d)  It doesn't require inflation -   Since many children do not have access to pumps, we designed the sOccket to be "permanently inflated"!  Of course this causes difference in the pressure and feeling of the ball.
These four important differences mean that the sOccket is constructed very differently than any other soccer ball you've ever seen.  As a result, it is unlikely the sOccket would ever be approved for regulation game play, but we know that everyone will love playing with the ball outside the stadium!
TFS: Who’s your target in specific? Why?
sOccket: Our "end users" are children in resource-poor areas as they are often most vulnerable to the adverse impacts of "energy poverty" (ie, a lack of access to electricity).  The sOccket can replace kerosene lamps, which spew poisonous smoke that is bad for the body and the environment.  With a little extra electricity, children can spend a bit more time on school work after dark without having to expose themselves to dangerous power alternatives.  Additionally, the sOccket concept illustrates to youth that imagination has a place in our world today, and we hope that the ball will inspire them to think creatively about how to address the challenges in their own communities through innovation.
TFS: Has sOccket been successful thus far in your opinion?
sOccket: Yes, and we still have a lot more that we want to achieve!
TFS: Have you had any big names in the Football world support your project?
Yes!  Some of our major supporters from the soccer world include David Villa, Sergio Ramos, Pepe Reina, Vicente del Bosque, Dani Alves, Kun Aguero, and Julie Foudy. Beyond soccer, our other all-star athlete supporters include Pau Gasol, JM Calderon, Jorge Lorenzo, Fernando Verdasco, and Caroline Wozniacki.
TFS: It feels like sOccket is fulfilling a great deed by giving those in need the chance to play football whilst as well being able to have electricity. But in order to get the sOccket balls, what must people do? Where can we get the balls from? What’s the price etc…
sOccket: Balls will be available to the general public on a "buy one, give one" basis (i.e., when you buy a ball, you are also paying for one to be donated to a child in need).  The balls will hopefully be available online before the end of 2011, and the price will be established closer to the release.
TFS: Is there a plan to expand to all corners of the blog? Obviously Africa is the biggest victim of not having electricity, but what about other regions like the Middle East; are you planning on reaching there?
sOccket: We hope to go everywhere.  We don't have any sort of geographic restrictions in place.
TFS: SOccket is the first of its kind in the world, but what happens if other “bigger” brands that create Footballs come up take up a similar idea and promote it to the world?
We have worked hard to protect our intellectual property, and we are on good terms with many major sports brands, so we hope that this does not become an issue.
TFS: Lastly, how can we, the general audience, help the project succeed as a whole?
Once our store is up and running you can buy and/or donate a ball! 

I encourage all our readers to support this cause as it's a noble, courageous and daring one. Have a look at their website:
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  1. Crackin' idea. There are some clever people about. What I want to know though is, does the ball come with one of those lights that are able to plug straight in, or is there an assumption that they will have the right connection to plug into the ball? Also, when they say electricity, what else can be plugged into it and how long will it last? Or does it only take that one connection. Or am I just being stupid?

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