A UK startup called Redux had developed technology that allows displays or other flat panels to emit sound without the user of a traditional speaker. Among other things, the technology could be used to build smartphones that don’t need speakers, freeing up space for bigger batteries, antennas, or other components.

But it looks like Redux doesn’t exist anymore… because Google acquired the company sometime last year. It’s not clear what Google plans to do with the company’s assets, but it’s not hard to imagine that an upcoming Pixel phone could use Redux audio technology in lieu of a speaker.

That said, it’s possible this was an “acqui-hire,” which would mean Google bought the company as a way to get its staff rather than its technology. There’s no guarantee they’ll continue working on the same thing at Google.

And if Google did acquire Redux for its technology, that doesn’t necessarily mean speakerless phones. The company also worked on haptic feedback solutions, allowing phone or tablet displays to vibrate at specific touch points to provide tactile feedback when you press the screen.

For example, pressing a play, pause, or skip button would provide physical feedback, as would turning a virtual volume dial.

Redux was hardly the only company with a haptic feedback system. It’s been a common feature in smartphones for years. But it’s an example of some of the other stuff the company was working on, suggesting that Google’s acquisition may not have anything to do with the company’s display-as-speaker technology.

The technology also wasn’t designed exclusively for phones. Other potential applications listed on the Redux website include automotive touch panel displays, PC speaker replacements, and industrial controls.

via Bloomberg

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5 replies on “Google buys company that turns displays into speakers”

  1. The idea has been around decades. Long before the PC even. They are called boundary mics. Used in every recording studio on the planet.

  2. I have one of those suction cup transducers that you stick on a window and the entire window becomes a speaker. I would think this is essentially the same idea. For basic alerts, ringtones, etc. it should be fine but it certainly isn’t high fidelity. Volume might be a bit of an issue too. Brownie points for trying something new though.

    1. As a speaker is just a microphone in reverse and boundary mics are used in every high end recording studio I think you will find that the sound will be way better than a teeny tiny speaker in a phone

      1. Yeah, as others noted here… this technology sucks for most sounds.
        You could convey a simple vibration or notification sound, but forget trying to play a long ringtone or music or watch a video. The quality takes a nose dive, and the volume is almost non-existent.

        Companies need to put large DUAL stereo loudspeakers on their device like the Alcatel Idol 3, ZTE Axon 7, and Razer Phone. Bonus points if they do it in slim bezels like the LG G6’s earpiece.

        I hate these weird solutions they come up with, not because it is better or is the right thing to do, they only do so to get the weird/wow factor for advertising, to trick/move extra units. It’s happened to displays with non-optimised aspect ratios, to cameras with non-optimised dualsensors, to form-factor with curved glass, to software with bloated gimmicks, and now to the inside hardware with AI units that don’t solve any problems.

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