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Ultrasound gesture control may come to mobile phones soon

A Norwegian start-up has created a gesture control system for smartphones which uses ultrasound transmitters instead of the more traditional infrared sensor.


As early as next year, we could be seeing a brand new way of interacting with our mobile phones. Norwegian start-up Elliptic Labs is in talks with Asian manufacturers about installing their new gesture control chip into mobile phones and other devices. The chip uses ultrasound technology to read hand gestures with sound waves.

While gesture control already exists in mobile phones, such as in the Samsung Galaxy S4, Elliptic’s system has many advantages. The S4 uses an infrared sensor that detects hand movements in a narrow area in front of the sensor. Because the Norwegian system uses sound, it can operate from larger distances, up to a meter away from the phone. It can also interpret gestures in a 180 degree field around the phone and since it uses sound, and not light, it can be used in complete darkness. Oh, and it’s more energy efficient.

“With a small screen such as a phone or a tablet, the normal body language is not that precise. You need a large zone in which to gesture.” says Erik Forsstrom, user interface designer for Elliptic Labs.


The technology has been shown off at the Japanese tech show Ceatec, where an Android phone was placed in a metal housing containing the ultrasound transmitters. Elliptic Labs reports that they have signed deals with a number of Asian handset manufacturers.


David F.
A grad student in experimental physics, David is fascinated by science, space and technology. When not buried in lecture books, he enjoys movies, gaming and mountainbiking

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