Ultrasound Tech Revolutionizing Gesture Controls

Dennis Faas's picture

Norwegian firm Elliptic Labs is employing ultrasound technology to improve existing gesture controls. As with medical ultrasound scans, the gadget sends out soundwaves at frequencies humans cannot hear.

The device then measures how long these soundwaves -- which are affected by the position and distance of any objects in the way -- take to return. This allows it to track any movements, such as somebody gesturing with a wave or a swipe of the hand.

Sound Allows Easier Control Than Light

Samsung uses a similar gesture control system with its Galaxy S4 smartphone, but that works through infrared light and can only spot gestures in a relatively limited space.

In contrast, Elliptic Labs says its system can work up to a meter away from the device and across a 180-degree arc. It also says that the ultrasound system works in the dark and uses very little battery power.

Finally, Elliptic Labs says it believes existing light-based systems -- like that used by Samsung -- put people off because it feels unnatural to have to make sure to put your hands in a very specific position, to the point that you might as well touch the screen. (Source: bbc.co.uk)

Elliptic Labs is talking to several manufacturers in Asia about building its ultrasound technology directly into new gadgets. It's also issued a software development toolkit to Android application makers, allowing them to not only use the gesture controls in new apps, but even to add support to existing apps.

Gamers, Drivers Could Benefit

At the moment, the main demonstrations of the technology have involved games. The idea there is to make handheld device games more like the Nintendo Wii or Xbox Kinect systems, which allow users more control than simply swiping on a screen.

It could also be used as a menu control system; for example, where people are using a tablet computer in place of a portable radio or TV and don't want to always have the device within arm's reach.

In the long run, Elliptic says it believes the technology could be adapted for use in cars. The company says it could be safer for users to control gadgets, such as GPS navigation systems, using a gesture rather than having to lean over to touch a screen. (Source: techcrunch.com)

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