If your favorite part of The Matrix was where Morpheus explains to Neo that the machines are using humans as batteries, good news! Researchers have discovered a way to harvest the body’s heat energy and convert it into electricity. The breakthrough, achieved by a team at North Carolina State University, generates power through a series of thermoelectric generators (TEGs) attached to the body, a wearable pad far less invasive than those tubes the machines were using.

“In this prototype, the TEG is only one centimeter squared, but we can easily make it larger, depending on a device’s power needs,” said Daryoosh Vashaee, associate professor of electrical engineering at North Carolina, in a statement released Monday. The TEG fits into a number of locations on the body, but the most efficient area was the upper arm.

The design consists of a thermally conductive material, coated with a polymer layer that forces the body’s heat to move through the TEG instead of escaping into the outside air. The whole design is around two millimeters thick, flexible, and capable of producing up to 20 microwatts per centimeter square.

Haywood Hunter, study co-leader, showing the system in action.
Haywood Hunter, study co-leader, showing the system in action.

But unlike the machines, which were forced into using human energy after a blackout of the sun, the TEG is aimed at helping humans who depend on portable electronics for health conditions.

“The goal of ASSIST is to make wearable technologies that can be used for long-term health monitoring, such as devices that track heart health or monitor physical and environmental variables to predict and prevent asthma attacks,” said Vashaee. “To do that, we want to make devices that don’t rely on batteries. And we think this design and prototype moves us much closer to making that a reality.”

Bit by bit, the world of The Matrix is becoming a reality. We’ve got the virtually simulated worlds with Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, we’ve got the electrical brain stimulation that can teach skills, and now we’ve got the body energy transfer system. All that’s left is the rogue artificial intelligence and we’ll have basically made the film come to life. Hooray?