The Sound of Touch

The Sound of Touch: Enhancing UI and VR with Ultrasound

The Sound of Touch: Enhancing UI and VR with Ultrasound


Chirp Microsystems reveals a mini ultrasound sensor for controlling touch-free gestures that will lead to mobile VR.
Our interaction via different devices has already surpassed the revolutionary touch screen technology, and the new stage is about to be entered based on sound, i.e. interacting with devices via sound.

Even if this has been already presented in a way, but the Chirp device consumes less energy and is more accurate due to ultrasound and is, therefore, a more sophisticated invention. In contrast to camera-based and infrared solutions, the ultrasound consumes 1,000 times less energy.

The startup company Chirp Microsystems introduces a MEMS Time-of-Flight sensor that will make devices that do not rely on touch by incorporating ultrasound transducers. The startup company featured a tablet that is controlled by hand gestures that do not touch the device but transfer the action performed in the air.

Michelle Kiang, which is the head and CEO of the startup company, makes a further comparison of the two solutions by emphasizing that machine vision which is used in camera-based systems also consumes processing energy in large quantities which does not make it ideal.

The ultrasound, in contrast, is reduced to measuring distance and range only.

The transducers are able to emit sound waves which like a boomerang return to the chip when they encounter an object like the human hand. The chip calculates the ToF and smoothly identifies the hand’s location which induces the programmed performance of the chip.

For example, you can scroll up and down the content featured on the device, as well as change the volume with simple hand movement, and manipulate other commands with the small finger. The ultrasound integration was enabled by reducing MEMS ultrasound sensors to an acceptable size.

The ultrasound transducers are MEMS-based and turn the ultrasound pressure on the membrane into an electrical signal. The membrane’s motion is not limited and produces thereby a signal higher in quality.

The circuit used is low-power enabling less power consumption as it supports the chip’s actions from within and the chip does not depend on an external processor. The device is, among others, convenient for sterile medical environments to keep your hands clean by operating a device without touching it.

There were several attempts to develop touch-free innovations based on sound, and the idea is not new, but Chirp’s device is the most successful one so far with low energy consumption and accurate sound recognition.