Elliptic Labs to bring ultrasound proximity gestures to smartphones

by: Robert TriggsJanuary 19, 2016

Elliptic Labs ultrasound gesture recognition

10 points if you can recall Elliptic Labs’ ultrasonic 3D gesture showcase from CES a couple of years back. It was certainly impressive and now the company is back with its newly announced BEAUTY ultrasound proximity software, which could make the infra-red sensors found in all of today’s smartphones obsolete.

Rather than requiring additional hardware, Elliptic Labs’ new solution uses the microphones and speakers already found in our smartphones. The software sends out small waves from the phone’s speaker and then uses the microphone to listen out for the returning reflections from any objects in front of the phone. Presumably the time taken and amplitude of the returning signal can be used to tell how close an object is to the phone.

This could, for example, be used to detect when a user picks up their phone and looks at the screen, automatically turning the display on when you bring it up to your face. Theoretically, other gesture controls could be implemented too, allowing for an additional layer of interaction without the need for any additional hardware.

Elliptic Labs boasts that its technology is at least as accurate as existing sensor technology and doesn’t introduce any additional latency. The lack of any added hardware also means that it can help to reduce on costs, which is certainly a plus. Unfortunately, this isn’t just a simple software update that can be applied to current smartphones, some form of specialized design and integration is required.

The company says that it is working directly with OEMs to integrate its BEAUTY ultrasound proximity software into future smartphones. The first handsets sporting this technology could arrive on the market later this year.