If you take a look at your phone, near the earpiece speaker and front camera you’ll find another dot or two. This is the proximity sensor and is the hardware responsible for turning the screen off automatically when you put the device to your face to make a call or with some software, put it in your pocket. A proximity sensor is typically an oblong or squarish affair under the hood and takes a little bit of room and power. It’s typically regarded as a necessary evil and simply designed around. One firm, however, wants to eliminate it.
You may or may not have heard of Elliptic Labs, a research and development outfit with offices in San Francisco, California, Shanghai, China and Oslo, Norway. This firm is credited with insane amounts of development in the ultrasonic field, specifically as it applies to smart devices. Thanks to them, smartphones, tablets, laptops and other devices have 3D gesture systems that can detect and interact with users without having to touch the screen or a mouse and keyboard. Now, they’ve set their sights on the humble proximity sensor. Using ultrasonic software, they plan to utilize a device’s microphone and earpiece speaker to figure out when a phone is facing open air and when it’s pressed against a surface. Elliptic Labs has dubbed their software BEAUTY. This development is expected to help streamline smartphone designs and bring down costs by eliminating the need for a traditional optical proximity sensor.
With the roll out of the BEAUTY software, Elliptic Labs is preparing to disrupt if not utterly gut a multi-million dollar hardware market. The BEAUTY software, with the right audio hardware, should do a better job and use less energy than a typical sensor, according to Laila Danielson, Elliptic Labs CEO. Danielson also boasted that the software is nearly ready for prime time and should start showing up in handsets before the year is out. No hardware partners were named at this time. “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.”