Sentons is developing ultrasonic tech users can expect in numerous new smartphones next year. By utilizing Sentons’ new CameraBar, smartphones will be able to incorporate nearly invisible virtual buttons on the side of the smartphone, allowing you to use the smartphone like a point and shoot camera without any physical controls.
The virtual buttons utilize ultrasonic technology. The technology is already implemented as Air Triggers in the Asus ROG Phone 3. As Digital Trends writes, ‘The Air Triggers…provide customizable virtual buttons specifically tailored for playing games in landscape orientation, removing the need to put physical buttons on the side of the phone. This means there’s nothing to break, no ugly protrusions, no issues with any water resistance, and improvements in ergonomics and functionality.’
Sentons wants the ultrasonic tech underpinning Air Triggers to have expanded usability for most smartphone users, not just gamers. Virtual buttons can also be used to control lens zoom and act as a virtual shutter release, as shown in Sentons’ CameraBar video below.
Digital Trends spoke with Sam Sheng, Sentons’ chief technology officer, about ultrasonic technology and virtual buttons. Sheng said that the CameraBar aims to create an ‘intuitive and simple camera experience.’ A sensor could be placed at one end of a chassis, or both, allowing multiple camera functions to be controlled using virtual buttons. You can slide your finger along the chassis to adjust zoom, press down in an area to lock focus, press harder to capture an image, or even turn the entire side into a squeezable shutter for capturing selfies.
The technology relies upon ultrasonic sensors built into the frame of the phone, hidden just under the surface. Sentons states that nearly any surface can be turned into a touch sensor, including carbon fiber, wood and other stiff materials. Per Sheng, it’s the first touch sensor that simultaneously detects force and position at the same time. Sheng says, ‘…we not only see the X and Y axis of your finger, but we see the Z axis, too, which tells it how hard you’re pushing.’
|Technology diagram illustrating how piezoelectric sensors and strain-gauge sensors work with a given substrate. Sentons’ SDSwave Processor and machine learning-based algorithms also play an important role. Image credit: Sentons|
At XDA Developers, Mishaal Rahman writes that Sentons ‘likens its technology to sonar.’ Piezoelectric sensors in CameraBar create a vibration field which can be used to determine the location of a user’s finger. An ultrasonic strain-gauge sensor measures the pressure. Sentons’ machine learning algorithms are used to eliminate false touches from purposeful taps and gestures.
Sentons’ sensor offers additional advantages over capacitive touch sensors and strain gauge. Ultrasonic sensors work fingers are wet, when wearing gloves, if the phone is in a case and even when the phone is submersed in water.
On the hardware side, CameraBar is an improved version of Sentons’ prior ultrasonic tech. The UX is tuned with the cooperation of manufacturers, ensuring that a shutter button’s position will be in a natural position. Sentons has set the minimum length for the CameraBar to be 30mm. The full set of features for CameraBar will depend in part on device manufacturers.
Sentons will supply recommended sensor topology to manufacturers. The company will also offer guidance on how to design the module and provide reference software to implement CameraBar in native camera apps. Manufacturers will be able to customize the gesture activation area and can choose to offer some customization control to the user.
The tech promises to make the process of capturing photos with a smartphone more intuitive and natural. Sentons can’t disclose customer engagement yet, but they told Digital Trends that ‘there are several phones coming with the CameraBar shortly.’ To read the full interview, click here. You can read further about the CameraBar by visiting Sentons.