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Beamcaster blasts the internet along lasers through the open air

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Using only beams of light, a new networking hub is able to distribute gigabit internet to a receiver as far as 18 feet away, reports Ars Technica. Earlier this week, RiT Technologies unveiled its Beamcaster networking unit, which operates using a similar principal to fiber optics — that information can be sent using light — but instead of sending it along cabling, directs a focused laser beam through the open air to deliver the data. The primary hub must be mounted on a ceiling and have a direct line of sight with each of its eight possible receivers, which communicate using light that's invisible to humans. Once aligned, the receivers can hook directly into a computer's ethernet to provide internet, or they can connect to a router to broadcast the signal even farther.

The unit is among the first products of its type, though companies have been working on the technology for years. The Wall Street Journal reports that AOptix, manufacturer of a recently released iris-scanning unit, tried to sell the technology commercially in the early 2000s, but it ultimately marketed the technology to the military and now plans to deploy a more advanced version of what RiT produces with financial institutions. RiT's unit is targeting IT departments, however — according to Ars Technica, the base price of the Beamcaster is $7,000, and it should be available within a few months.