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Google purchased a company that turns displays into speakers

Right ahead of the Pixel 2's unveiling last fall, it was announced that Google purchased a heap of smartphone engineers from HTC to spearhead smartphone projects for the coming years. According to a report from Bloomberg, Google made another purchase about a month before this for UK-based company Redux.

If you haven't heard of Redux, you're not alone. The company hasn't actually released any consumer-facing products, but the tech it's developed is awfully intriguing. Redux's technology uses vibrations with displays for a variety of different things, and the most notable use of this is the ability to harness these vibrations to turn displays into functioning speakers.

The folks at Mashable got a chance to go hands-on with a tablet demoing this at MWC last year, and in the video you see below, all the sound is coming from the display – not a traditional external speaker.

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Along with this, Redux can also use these vibrations to create haptic feedback when interacting with a display that tries to mimic the feel of touching buttons and moving sliders/dials. This sounds an awful lot like what Apple's been doing with its Taptic Engine, and if you've ever messed around with a device that uses it, you know just how awesome it really is.

It's unclear if/when Google will integrate this tech into products of its own, but there's a very real possibility we could see a Pixel 3 next year with a display that acts as a speaker and some of the best haptic response yet on an Android device. We might be getting a little ahead of ourselves with that thought, but only time will tell where Google ends up going with this.

Joe Maring was a Senior Editor for Android Central between 2017 and 2021. You can reach him on Twitter at @JoeMaring1.

27 Comments
  • That's really intriguing tech.
  • That Mashable tweet with the video is amazing.. and its almost a year old now. This would be a huge hit in the market!
  • Just think, now you can break your screen and "speakers" all at once!
  • Lol
  • 😂
  • lol, nice. kill two birds w/ one stone, lol!
  • This sounds similar to the piezoelectric tech Xiaomi used in the original Mi Mix in place of the typical earpiece speaker.
  • I was thinking something simular, I knew I'ed heard about this tech before.
  • Sounds cool
  • I wonder if you can actually feel the screen vibrate. If so, I think that'd be pretty annoying if you're trying to do things like play games, etc.
  • Came here to say this. My thoughts exactly. If screen is vibrating, that will severely cut down on display clarity when watching videos, gaming, etc. It's fine when it's just being used to listen to music.
  • Isn't that the same technology Sony uses on the TV it just released at CES
  • Sony has used similar for some time in TVs.
  • I wouid think that it wouid shorten the life of the display? Does not seem like a good idea. Can't imagine you'd get much bass out of it.
  • Are you getting a lot of bass out of your phone speakers right now?
  • Not a lot of course, but at least I can hear the bass drum on the U11 reasonable. I can't on my iPhone 7 or S7 Edge.
  • well no one gets a lot of bass out of phone speakers, but I would think it's more than a "screen speaker" ;)
  • Does touching the screen,
    Or other holding/mounting the device,
    'Dampen' or otherwise affect the quality of the audio?
  • Sounds pretty cool, but in addition to the above questions, what happens when you apply a screen protector?
  • I know people love haptic feedback....I have never used it on any device ...there must be others like me??
  • Yeah same here , i look at it as wasted battery , i turned it off on every phone I've had .
  • I believe the Sharp Aquos Crystal used the screen for audio, but may have used a different technique to drive it. The tech does have a few advantages, like eliminating an opening, a tighter link to haptic feedback, and allowing more screen.
    From an audio perspective, there are a few drawbacks that are due to simple physics. Bass response will be diminished because the display panel itself will not have much excursion. High frequency response will be limited because of the mass of the screen. Driving an entire screen takes more power than a relatively compliant (easier to move) speaker, and the volume will be affected when you have both hands on the screen during gaming. Blurring should not be an issue because you are usually looking at the screen head on, and the screen will not be vibrating any significant distance.
    I don't think the vibrations will have much effect on the longevity of a good display panel. As far as vibrations during gaming, it does not bother me, and in most cases, feeling the music through the body of the phone is an enhancement. A lot of HTC phones use the body as a resonant chamber for bass and mid-bass, and I like the feeling when playing loud games like Riptide GP2.
  • Sony showed an OLED TV that does the same thing - at CES 2017.
  • It has been on sale for the last year and works really well.
  • This is the old NXT vibrating panel technology which has been around since Noah built his Ark. They tried to flog it to phone makers for years and failed. I know because I owned shares in them years ago. They went bust and became HiWave Technologies and then Redux. I have pair of flat panel speakers that look like picture frames that use the technology. As you would expect it turns a glass panel into a Tweeter, there is virtually no base, for that they supplied a separate woofer. I also have an old TDK CD case where the lid had a hard panel and vibrator within the lid so you could prop it up and use as a speaker. It's OK but bass light. What concerns me, is that if the screen touches your face as you hold it up it will go silent, so I don't think it will replace the earpiece. I could be used along with a traditional speaker being used for bass only and sound pretty good https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Distributed_mode_loudspeaker
  • No doubt buying a company for it's tech can be a win , hard too see Google using the display as a speaker on the pixel though ,
    Watching a reviewer use a phone with that feature , one problem he noticed was you can't really have any privacy with a screen speaker , everyone hears your conversation.
    Haptic might be a win though.
  • Sony has this same tech on their OLED tvs