MWC Extra – Elliptic Labs

Our old friends Elliptic Labs were in Barcelona again and I made a point of revisiting. If you’re not familiar with their tech, have a look at our coverage of Mobile World Congress last year and 2014. Basically put, they use radar technology to track your hand movements, whether it be behind, in front or to the side of your device.

The results are pretty spectacular, and you’re able to interact with your phone or tablet in a whole new way. No camera sensor needed – this is detecting your hand approaching and either lighting up the screen of your phone, displaying information or making a character move on screen based on how close your hand gets to the device.

MWC Extra   Elliptic Labs

This year there was a demo of some other kit housing the technology, including a lamp that you can turn on and off just by flapping your hand in the air a certain way, plus a smoke alarm which can be muted in a similar fashion.

However, I wanted to come back because I was honestly surprised as to why this tech hadn’t made it into smartphones as yet. It seemed like a no-brainer in 2014, and it still does now.

Guenael Strutt, who’s the VP of Product Development at Elliptic, told me that working with handset manufacturers was a big undertaking. It nvolved a lot of their staff to be working with the manufacturer for a long length of time. Not only that, but encouraging handset manufacturers to add more components into their handsets proved an uphill battle. Packing more stuff into a slim package is a big ask.

So Elliptic have taken a different route, but they’re still bristling with confidence about the end result. They’ve chosen instead to get the manufacturers to take something out of their phones – namely the existing proximity sensor.

MWC Extra   Elliptic Labs

A proximity sensor often needs a couple of holes on the front of the phone, which looks a bit naff, so Elliptic have created a new system called “Beauty” which delivers an ultrasonic software-only solution. The result, when you look at the front of the phone, is one hole instead of two, as Elliptic Labs have instead used their technology to do the proximity checking.

The hope is, in the coming months, that they can add a second sensor into the microphone hole. This will then let them do a lot of the cool tracking technology that we’ve seen in years gone by, but without the 4-sensor requirement that has been needed until now.