On January 9, 2007, at the Macworld conference in San Francisco, Steve Jobs took center stage and with characteristic flourish, unveiled Apple’s first iPhone. Packed with three (at-the-time) revolutionary sensors—proximity, ambient light, and accelerometer— these hardware components have been an unchanging staple in every smartphone since. But these standard sensors may finally be on their way out. AI tech company Elliptic Labs has pioneered an ingenious way to replace these typical hardware components with AI-driven virtual smart sensors instead. “We leverage the power of ultrasound sensing to eliminate the need for physical sensors and bring visible improvements to smartphone design,” says Laila Danielsen, CEO of Elliptic Labs.
This cutting-edge company first impacted the smartphone market in 2016 with Xiaomi’s release of the Mi MIX. By integrating Elliptic Labs’ software-only INNER BEAUTY® Virtual Proximity Sensor into this flagship offering, Xiaomi was able to completely remove the traditional hardware proximity sensor from their phones, allowing them to expand the device’s screen all the way to the top edge of the phone. “We have entirely redefined the use of proximity sensors in mobile phones with INNER BEAUTY,” Danielsen says.
The idea behind INNER BEAUTY is simple, though the skill that goes into it is prodigious: INNER BEAUTY’s AI engine uses a phone’s innate components (speakers and microphone) to send and receive ultrasound signals, which are then analyzed to determine user proximity.
We leverage the power of ultrasound sensing to eliminate the need for physical sensors and bring visible improvements to smartphone design
This eliminates the need for any additional hardware sensor. “The result: a far more aesthetically pleasing design. Consider Xiaomi—their sales immediately and significantly increased with the launch of an INNER BEAUTY-enabled, bezel-less smartphone,” remarks Danielsen.
INNER BEAUTY’s success led to the creation of two further products: INNER REFLECTION™ (a virtual presence sensor) and INNER MAGIC™ (a virtual touchless gesture sensor). Elliptic Labs is already gaining traction in the tech world for these capabilities. “We see immense use for INNER REFLECTION in the smart speaker segment,” Danielsen affirms. Currently, smart speakers are not equipped to detect the presence of a person in its vicinity. With INNER REFLECTION, Elliptic Labs offers a future where a person can walk into their kitchen in the morning and have their smart speaker greet them automatically with news of the day.
The company is also receiving interest for its breakthrough in touch-free gesture interfaces. INNER MAGIC uses ultrasound waves instead of traditional cameras to monitor the entire 180-degree hemisphere around a device’s face. INNER MAGIC has also been integrated onto the Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ 845 Mobile Platform using the Snapdragon Neural Processing Engine (NPE). This powerful partnership means OEMs can easily add full-screen displays to mobile devices and include touch-free gesture responses to naturally extend how users interact with their phones.
In addition to the revolution it’s creating in the smartphone market, Elliptic Labs has its eyes set on several other sectors such as IoT, healthcare, automotive (self-driving cars), AR, and VR. “What truly distinguishes us and makes us versatile for different industries is our expertise in non-optical machine learning—a rare resource in the AI technology marketplace,” Danielsen says.