Feature Article

June 19, 2014

Knowles Brings Hands-Free Gesture Control to Smartphones and Tablets

The Knowles Corporation is already well-known for producing state-of-the-art microphone technologies, but their newest product is pushing that technology into a whole new direction. By using audio triangulation technology similar to radar, sonar and ultrasound, the new Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems (MEMS) microphone can accurately track the location and movement of objects and translate that information into hands-free gesture control for devices like tablets and smartphones. Aside from gesture control, the technology also facilitates phone-to-phone data transmission, pen input compatibility and 3D positioning input.

The MEMS microphone is capable of detecting and supporting sound waves in the ultrasonic bandwidth far beyond the range at which the human ear can detect sounds, peaking at around 80 kHZ. The microphone can then use those sound waves to triangulate where an object is, and how it is moving.

In a way, this is similar to the echolocation that bats use to see at night, as both methods repeatedly bounce sound waves off of objects in order to create an “image” of where these objects are, without using light at all. As such this gesture control would function just as well in pitch darkness as it does in the daylight, which current gesture control competitors can't replicate due to dependence on cameras or other visual cues and receptors.

“Our commitment to continuous improvement and innovation allows us to develop leading edge products that push the industry forward and enhance the user experience,” said Knowles Co-President of Mobile Consumer Electronics Mike Adell. Indeed, the MEMS microphone is an excellent tool for facilitating the constantly evolving consumer market for mobile device technology. In addition to gesture recognition, the MEMS microphone also makes use of more traditional touch-less control, including voice activation. Knowles has not listed a date as to when the product will be available for retail sale, but the company expects to begin manufacturing it in the third quarter of 2014.

Edited by Allison Sansone

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