Google quietly bought a UK startup that uses vibrations to turn your screen into a speaker

Google has quietly bought a UK startup named Redux that uses vibrations to turn phone and tablet displays into speakers, reports Bloomberg. It’s not clear when the purchase was made, or for how much the company was bought, but the acquisition happened in August last year according to Crunchbase.

Redux developed a number of technologies involving sound and touch in mobile devices, but never placed them in any major consumer products. The Verge had some hands-on time with the company’s tech last year, trying out a tablet which vibrated its screen to function as a speaker, as well as a number of displays that used haptic feedback to mimic the feel of buttons, sliders, and dials.

The results in both cases were impressive. The sound quality from the vibrating screen was decent, and the haptic feedback made it feel like you were touching, if not physical buttons, then at least something. They clicked and buzzed in a way no other phone screens currently do. Here’s a video and report from Mashable on Redux’s screen-to-speaker tech from last year’s MWC:

For Google, a company keen to prove itself in the world of hardware, the attraction of such tech is obvious. Turning screens into speakers would help free up space inside smartphones for other components like bigger batteries. And displays with tactile feedback could offer a unique selling point for the company’s devices — similar to Apple’s pressure-sensitive “3D touch” iPhone screens.

“We can turn the screen into a high quality loudspeaker, eliminating the need for an embedded speaker,” Redux’s Nedko Ivanov told New Electronics in an interview back in 2016. “When it comes to mobile phones, we are not only saving valuable real estate and creating a waterproof housing, we are eliminating the need for additional speaker holes and most importantly, improving the audio quality.”

It remains to be seen what Google’s plans are for this technology.

Comments

If they can make this loud enough I would be very excited. Mi and Sony have done a great job of in-screen speakers and if google can implement this it will be amazing.

Amazing! I guess we can expect to see this on the future Pixels?

I hope they don’t use this to replace the front facing speakers completely but instead just to assist them.

Ha, I was going to say the opposite. The front facing speakers meme contributed to goofy bezels for years.

Along with big ol’ home buttons, capacitive nav buttons, and front facing OEM and carrier logos.

…Then Apple came along with FaceID and took goofy looking bezels to a whole new level!

The pixel XL 2 has front facing speakers and slim bezels. You can have your cake and eat it too.

Those are anything but slim … Sorry.

On the smaller pixel 2, sure.

But on the Pixel 2 XL, they are slim. But everybody has their own opinions on it so to each their own.

The best phone I’ve ever used and best looking too.

Agreed! And all the satisfied owners of the original Pixel give me hope that this phone will last as well.

The first Pixel came out a year ago. We’re satisfied they made it that long?

Its just as smooth as day one. Not hearing that from iPhone users right now.

Is this where you post links to a forum supporting your point and then I post links to a forum countering your claim?

Slowing the phones when the batteries are worn is the correct move to make.

Is this where you defend Apple slowing down phone’s without telling users? If nothing were wrong with it, it wouldn’t have been a secret.

Best phone I’ve ever owned too. Replaced my Nexus 6p.

Girlfriend even bought one she liked it so much.

+1 here

They are actually very slim.

The iPhone X has an even more goofy looking notch

Depends on the quality of the sound, I guess. Pretty cool that this can theoretically replace an earpiece though. Now all that’s left is hiding the camera and other sensors behind the display and we can finally have a truly bezel-less phone! (If you’re into that sort of thing, at least.)

I’m fine with slim bezels for now but when the tech you mentioned is ready, I will gladly jump on board with it. Just give me my glass slab.

Very cool, I just wonder what effect a broken screen will have on that, and how much it’ll cost to replace one.

Hadn’t thought of that. Some people crack their screens and take time to replace it because the phone continues functioning as normal. But what if the screen is the earpiece? You crack the screen and HAVE to replace it since it won’t even act as a phone anymore.

Panel speakers have been around for years, but I wonder how well this would work on a screen. The immediate issue I see is that the sound will be impacted by touching the screen. Just like putting your finger on a speaker dome.
Also an ear piece speaker would still be needed when actually using the device as a phone.

Apple got allot of gripe for 3D Touch/ Force Touch mainly from those that don’t use the phone. Google seem to have bought this because they also have the "3D Touch" capability. Will we see the same lavel of distaste? Probably not.

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