Sure, those big stands are OK. The companies at them have spend colossal sums of money to be here in Barcelona to push their products, but I personally prefer to go to those smaller stands where there’s just a monitor and a guy standing under it trying to push his product.
So let’s meet Elliptic Labs. They’re on a shared stand in Hall 6 and have a cupboard, a monitor and one utterly amazing “thing” to show us.
Now, people have asked me what the “best phone” is at MWC. I’ll cover that in a different story, but as for the most stand-out mobile advancement, this has to be it.
Starting out in the University of Oslo, Elliptic Labs is now a privately held company with offices in California and Norway. They’ve created a touchless interface. A system for “seeing” where your hand is, whether your hand is in front, behind, or to the side. Sure, it’s boxy, but Guenael Strutt, VP of Product Development, admits that they’re not hardware manufacturers. It works using ultra-sound technology and hardly uses any power. In the middle is a standard – albeit rooted – Samsung Galaxy S4. To make this work you just need some small sensors and a couple of tiny holes. It also shuts down it the proximity sensor is triggered, so no false readings if your phone is in your pocket or against your ear.
Before I go on, you should see the video…
The key thing here is that your hand doesn’t have to be directly over the handset. There’s no optical sensors involved here, it’s all a radar-like system with a 180 degree field of “vision”. The system knows which side your hand is and activates when your hand is roughly 10-15 inches from the screen.
That’s when things get clever, because with the help of an SDK you can get the phone to do slightly different things depending on the proximity and position. It’s not all about being able to swipe pages up and down.
Here you’ll see how the lock screen, which is crammed full of information, wakes up when the hand gets near, then displays the unlock button when your finger gets nearer. Nice.
Using the system you’ll also be able to “declutter” your screen, with less buttons and menus needed in future handsets. It’s an amazing idea and I fully expect it to be appearing on devices in the next year or so.