Elliptic Labs smartphone is controlled by waving at it

Ultrasonic speakers can turn phones into gestural interfaces

Elliptic Labs shows off its smartphone gesture control interface at Ceatec 2014 outside Tokyo on Tuesday. The system uses an ultrasonic speaker to determine the location of a user's hand.

Elliptic Labs shows off its smartphone gesture control interface at Ceatec 2014 outside Tokyo on Tuesday. The system uses an ultrasonic speaker to determine the location of a user's hand.

Sick of fingering your smartphone's touchscreen? How about just waving at it?

Elliptic Labs thinks it's easier and more intuitive to wave at a smartphone than to touch it as a control method.

At the Ceatec 2014 technology show outside Tokyo, the Norwegian startup exhibited a smartphone control method it calls Multi Layer Interaction. It allows users to display different content on a phone depending on the location and distance between their hand and the screen.

During a demonstration, an Elliptic staffer moved his hand toward the screen on a prototype smartphone. The device immediately displayed the home screen on its Android OS. When he moved his hand closer, the device scrolled through various other menu levels.

The feature is aimed at replacing touch for everyday phone uses such as checking messages, playing games, watching videos and navigating maps, which were also shown during the demonstration.

For instance, if you're watching a video on your mobile device and want to see how much time is left before the end, simply waving a finger at it will call up the time display.

"With Multi Layer Interaction, we can represent different content depending on your distance," said Elliptic Labs CEO Laila Danielsen. "First we had the keyboard, then the mouse, then it was touch. We knew that the natural next step is going to be touchless."

The technology works with an ultrasonic speaker developed by Japanese components maker Murata, which showcased its latest performing robots at Ceatec.

The ultrasonic speaker, measuring 5.2 millimeters square, fits into the earpiece of the smartphone prototype. It works with standard MEMS microphones already in use in smartphones, and even works in noisy environments.

It sends out ultrasonic waves that reflect off the bones in a user's hand. Those reflections are picked up by four microphones in the smartphone, one in each corner of the display surface. An algorithm then processes the data to determine the location of a hand.

That calculation involves a relatively light computational load and it won't impose a large drain on battery power, said Erik Forsstrom, director of user experience for Elliptical. The gesture interface can remain on even when a smartphone is asleep.

Elliptic Labs said it's in talks with smartphone, tablet and laptop manufacturers to include ultrasonic speakers in models that will be launched in 2015.

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags consumer electronicssmartphonesCEATECElliptic Labs

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Tim Hornyak

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Crucial Ballistix Elite 32GB Kit (4 x 8GB) DDR4-3000 UDIMM

Learn more >

Gadgets & Things

Lexar® Professional 1000x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards

Learn more >

Family Friendly

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Plox Star Wars Death Star Levitating Bluetooth Speaker

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

GGG Evaluation Team

Kathy Cassidy

STYLISTIC Q702

First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni

STYLISTIC Q572

For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Steph Mundell

LIFEBOOK UH574

The Fujitsu LifeBook UH574 allowed for great mobility without being obnoxiously heavy or clunky. Its twelve hours of battery life did not disappoint.

Andrew Mitsi

STYLISTIC Q702

The screen was particularly good. It is bright and visible from most angles, however heat is an issue, particularly around the Windows button on the front, and on the back where the battery housing is located.

Simon Harriott

STYLISTIC Q702

My first impression after unboxing the Q702 is that it is a nice looking unit. Styling is somewhat minimalist but very effective. The tablet part, once detached, has a nice weight, and no buttons or switches are located in awkward or intrusive positions.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?