Look, Ma, no hands!

Elliptic Labs’s ultrasound technology allows users to control touchscreens without touch

Elliptic Labs' technology enables a new range of ways to control touchscreen devices.

Photo: ellipticlabs.com
Elliptic’s technology enables a new range of ways to control touchscreen devices.

Rasmus Falck
Oslo, Norway

The Oslo and Silicon Valley based company Elliptic Labs’s New Year’s announcement was that its input technology will arrive on phones in the first half of 2015. On top of the usual swiping gesture for images, games, and navigation, there is now capability called “multi-layer interaction,” which uses your hand’s proximity to toggle different actions, or layers. It’s potentially useful for glancing at different types of messages on the lock screen.

Compared to its optical counterparts, this ultrasound solution is more convenient for everyday use, as it has a 180-degree active area around the entire face of device. Elliptic Labs CEO Laila Danielsen added that it’s possible to integrate this technology into car dashboards, wearables, and healthcare equipment, but for now, her team is focusing on smartphones, tablets, and laptops. As to which manufacturer will be using it first, she said we’ll have to wait and see.

Elliptic Labs was founded in Oslo in 2006. It was a spinoff from the signal processing environment at the University of Oslo. The startup grew from its initial research background in echo-management systems for multi-antenna mobile communication. The company’s goal is to deliver robust natural touchless gesturing that is adaptive to the human style of interaction by enabling ultrasonic touchless gesturing. The total touchless sensing and gesture-recognition market is expected to reach more than 15 billion dollars by 2018.

For decades, Norwegian companies within the ultrasound research community have excelled in using ultrasound for immersion, medical, and seismic application. The historical reasons for this are obvious—with a long coastline and petroleum resources, high-tech development has secured both better exploitation and new discoveries. Needs relating to off-shore industries, such as ship-to-ship communication links, have spurred several startups and technology ventures, many of which are now market leaders in their respective business areas. From its central Oslo location, the company shares interest with, and can learn from, some of the best players in the ultrasonic world. Since their products focus on consumer electronics they decided on establishing an office in Palo Alto, California.

The CEO, Laila Danielsen, is an experienced tech executive with a career bringing emerging technologies to market. Her focus is enterprise software and technology both from Fortune 500 companies and Silicon Valley startups. She was awarded an MS at the Norwegian School of Economics and a BA at University of San Francisco.

Last fall the company opened an office in Innovation House Shanghai, a full-service business incubator run by Innovation Norway in the bustling Knowledge and Innovation Community area in Shanghai. From there they will support customers as they incorporate their innovative technology. Elliptic Labs, with 30 employees, just won the Innovation Award at the CEATECH fair in Japan. The future looks bright!

This article originally appeared in the Jan. 16, 2015, issue of the Norwegian American Weekly.

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Rasmus Falck

Rasmus Falck is a strong innovation and entrepreneurship advocate. The author of “What do the best do better” and “The board of directors as a resource in SME,” he received his masters degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He currently lives in Oslo.