On the surface, the new technology unveiled by LG Innotek—the component manufacturing arm under the LG umbrella—sounds like nothing more than a new twist on old smartphone technology. But in reality, the market that LG has identified here is one that could completely alter the way in which users interact with more than just their smartphone of choice.
Unveiled as a new 3D depth-sensing technology that will be integrated into the company’s upcoming LG G8 ThinQ smartphone, the Time of Flight module from LG Innotek holds all kinds of potential for future applications.
Where the Time of Flight module sounds like old tech is in how it will be implemented into the G8 ThinQ. LG explains the sensor in a way that seems uniquely similar to Apple’s FaceID. The Time of Flight system can perceive three-dimensionality by projecting a beam of light out into the world and recording distance based on the time it takes for that light to bounce back to the sensor.
Additionally, the module can perceive spatial information and movement of an object, which is where things really get interesting.
When applied to a smartphone, Time of Flight opens up the possibility for no-contact interactions between the user and the device. So, for example, a wave of a hand from left to right could cause your music player to skip a track, or go back a track, or raise or lower the volume, and so on.
LG Innotek went so far as to say Time of Flight could someday altogether replace the touch sensors in our smartphones.
But the real excitement around this technology lies in other future implementations of Time of Flight, beyond just the smartphone. LG Innotek said it will look to apply the module to PCs, wearable devices, home electronics, and automobiles. In a car, Time of Flight could alleviate a driver from fumbling, looking for a button on their center console—instead, allowing them to raise or lower the AC or control GPS navigation with the wave of the hand.
Then, of course, there’s the smart home application of Time of Flight, integrating gesture control into our appliances and switches to control lighting or shades, or even creating a more accurate and efficient security system. This technology could get us a step closer from that in-home experience where, you walk from room to room and the module senses who’s passing by and can alert the home to adjust the temperature, turn on the TV to a specific channel, and dim the lights to that individual’s liking.
First step, though, we’ll get to see if LG can successfully implement Time of Flight in their G8 ThinQ phone, which will launch at Mobile World Congress this week.