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Ultrasound to replace proximity sensors on smartphones
January 25, 2016, 11:06 am

Elliptic Labs attracted a lot of attention a couple of years ago when it demonstrated its 3D gestural interactions based on ultrasonic wave technology. It allowed users to navigate through apps, control music playback, and answer calls all with the wave of their hand. Unfortunately, the technology did not find widespread adoption, at least not yet.

Now, Elliptic is coming out with software that could obviate the infrared-based proximity sensor, which currently detects when a person brings up their phone for making or receiving a call and dims the display appropriately.

By sending out small waves of ultrasound from the phone's earpiece and listening out for their reflections with the handset's microphones, Elliptic is able to detect the proximity of someone about to use the phone.

Elliptic Labs promises its solution is "at par or better" than infrared in terms of accuracy and latency when detecting the user's head. Power consumption is also not increased, but cost and complexity of manufacturing are decreased, which is why the company feels extremely bullish about its chances of attracting hardware partners to integrate its technology. The company hopes to bring it to market this year.

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