Wolfson audio chips help to create touchless technology

Wolfson is supporting Elliptic Labs' work to bring Minority Report technology to life. Picture: Contributed
Wolfson is supporting Elliptic Labs' work to bring Minority Report technology to life. Picture: Contributed
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AUDIO chips made by Wolfson Microelectronics are to help users control their electrical devices without touching them.

Elliptic Labs, a spin-out company from Oslo University in Norway, has already launched software that allows users to control Microsoft’s Windows 8 operating system by making hand gestures to their laptop.

Now the company has teamed up with Wolfson to incorporate the Edinburgh-based firm’s technology into its next generation of products, which will work with mobile phones, tablet computers and even in-car entertainment systems.

Touchless gesturing technology is already being used by companies such as South Korean electronics giant Samsung, which has incorporated such systems into its latest line-up of smartphones and televisions.

The technology is similar to that used by Tom Cruise film Minority Report. Microsoft has also built gesture recognition into its new Xbox One games console.

Elliptic Labs said that its technology is currently the only system in the world that can offer “three-dimensional gesture control with a 180-degree field of view at all sides of the device”.

Wolfson added that its audio digital signal processor (ADSP) chip would allow Elliptic Labs’ technology to be “always on and always looking” for hand gestures from the user without draining the mobile phones’ battery power.

The Norwegian company’s technology works by detecting the soundwaves – or pressure waves in the air – created when users wave their hands at their devices. Wolfson – which was spun-out from Edinburgh University in 1984 and floated on the stock market in 2003 – made its name creating audio chips for high-end hi-fi music systems and has continued to specialise in sound-related technology.

Andy Brannan, chief commercial officer at Wolfson, said: “Along with voice control, touchless gesture control is fast becoming one of the next generation human-machine interfaces for mobile and wearable devices.

“The barrier to this new technology being more widely adopted has been power consumption. Wolfson removes this barrier to enable true ‘always on’ hands-free control in all situations.

“Elliptic Labs is at the forefront of this new technology trend and we are delighted to work with them to port their ultrasonic touchless gesture control solution onto our ultra-low power platform.”

Laila Danielsen, chief executive at Elliptic Labs, added: “Integrating Elliptic Labs’ ultrasonic touchless gesturing solution with Wolfson’s ADSP platform gives device manufacturers a way to offer the advantages of touchless gesturing to consumers while ensuring extremely low power consumption.

“Manufacturers are keen to enable mobile devices to be ‘always on and always looking’ for hand gestures while consuming minimal power, and working alongside low power voice control.

“Our combined technology can ensure this becomes a reality for the market.”