The way consumers today interact with their speaker-contained digital voice assistants is pretty self explanatory—they talk to them. Other physical buttons on the product might sometimes get use, but for the most part, the user barks their order at Alexa, Google Assistant, or Siri, and asks that service to complete some task.
Elliptic Labs, a company that focuses on developing ultrasound virtual proximity and gesture sensing technology, is looking to change that. At Mobile World Congress 2018 in Barcelona this week, Elliptic Labs announced INNER REFLECTION technology for smart speakers. When deployed in smart speakers, the tech will allow consumers to use physical gestures to control different aspects of the speaker experience.
Described simple, those speakers will be able to detect human presence and respond to different gestures through ultrasound gesture technology. That tech is described by Elliptic Labs as having a 360-degree interaction zone that can cover any area around a device, but isn’t intrusive.
"By using ultrasound in home devices, users don’t have to worry about privacy when detecting that someone is nearby," Elliptic Labs CEO Laila Danielsen said in a statement. “User experience is the most important aspect of home devices today—having your smart speaker know that you are there leads to numerous capabilities.”
Aside from being able to respond to gestures to do things like lower or raise the volume or turn the lights in a room on or off, Elliptic Labs said the INNER REFLECTION system can be used to assess the environment in a room before communicating with a user to “deliver more appropriate, timely information.”
The system is available to OEMs who are developing smartphones and smart speakers.