Ultrasound sensors could soon replace physical buttons on your phone

Ultrasense Ultrasound sensor
Ultrasense Ultrasound sensor (Image credit: Ultrasense)

What you need to know

  • New ultrasound sensors from Ultrasense are tiny, self-contained switches that work anywhere.
  • Ultrasound switches could replace buttons, allowing for simpler, seamless design.
  • Ultrasense says that the requirements of 5G antennas are better managed with ultrasound buttons.

Tiny new ultrasound switches may soon come to ... well, everything if a report from our friends over at Android Authority comes to fruition. Gary Sims of "Gary Explains" fame spotted developments at Ultrasense that could improve phone design and finally move to the seamless future that we all love and dread.

Recently, ultrasonic technology has had a mixed record in the phone world, acting as the underlying tech for in-display fingerprint readers that have disappointed many. Ultrasense presents a simple switch that can be situated under metal, wood, glass, leather, and plenty of surfaces that would not work with other touch technologies (like capacitive buttons).

This means that manufacturers won't need to drill holes for volume buttons, or power buttons, or any buttons at all. Ultrasense says its sensors can detect different levels of force, and the sensors can work in tandem to create a drag-to-activate feature, in addition to simpler tapping. By replacing physical switches, ultrasound sensors will help manufacturers build waterproof and rigid phones more easily. Ultrasense also says that its switch technology is more amenable to the needs of future 5G phones and their finicky mmWave antennas.

While we're selfishly thinking of all the cool phone concepts effective touch switches could enable, Ultrasense is looking far beyond mobile devices to anywhere you might tap to interact with technology. Household appliances, automobiles, and even medical environments that use harsh cleaners would all benefit from seamless, button-free design that works under any surface material. While the company has no current products to announce, it does hint that its technology could be appearing in smartphones as early as this year.

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