Elliptic Labs has found a way to replace a staple of smartphones — the hardware optical proximity sensor — with an ultrasound software solution. Proximity sensors are a key component that turn off the phone screen and disable touch functionality when a user is holding their smartphone up to their ear. The end result will allow manufacturers to be able to design more aesthetically pleasing smartphones without the small black holes that are common on smartphones.
The ultrasonic software, dubbed BEAUTY, delivers the proximity functionality, re-using the existing earpiece and microphone previously used only for audio.
“We are disrupting this market with a superior software solution,” explained Laila Danielsen, CEO of Elliptic Labs. “Our BEAUTY ultrasonic software-only solution replaces and outperforms optical hardware sensors, beautifying mobile design, reducing cost and freeing up physical space inside mobile device. We will see our BEAUTY solution incorporated into phones in 2016.”
In addition to improving smartphone design, Elliptic Labs hopes to be able to reduce costs and improve performance and claim that BEAUTY works better than optical proximity sensors which can be unreliable in certain weather conditions or in response to variations in skin or hair colour.
BEAUTY will also allow for ultrasound based gestures through the use of Multi Layer Interaction (MLI), turning your phone screen on as you move your hand towards your phone and displaying different information based on the distance your hand is from your device. According to Elliptic Labs, MLI makes it faster to work with applications you use repeatedly during the day, such as checking messages, playing games, navigating maps, using social media, and watching videos.
The company is currently working directly with OEMs to integrate the BEAUTY ultrasound proximity software into phones, so hopefully we’ll start seeing some sleeker — and slightly more affordable — smartphones in the near future.