Ultrasound proximity sensing wins Xiaomi's heart

October 26, 2016 // By Julien Happich
Last January, Norwegian startup Elliptic Labs was releasing its software-based ultrasound proximity sensing solution, Beauty, leveraging smartphones' existing microphone and speakers to remove hardware-based proximity sensors (often infrared-based).

Further improving its software engine, the company is now able to not only to remove the proximity sensor, but also hide the speaker behind the phone's glass screen. The new feat, marketed as "Inner Beauty", won the heart of Xiaomi and is what enabled the smartphone manufacturer to considerably extend the functional area of the screen on the newly released MIX smartphone.

During MIX' official launch, Xiaomi pointed out that by removing the holes typically required in the faceplate to accommodate for speakers and optical IR sensors, the new phone was able to have its screen extended, with a functional area covering 91.3% of the faceplate, compared to 67.7% for the iPhone 7 Plus.

Besides eliminating the unsightly holes on a phone's screen, Elliptic Labs claims its technology eliminates common issues with hardware proximity sensors, such as their unreliability in certain weather conditions or in response to various skin colours as well as dark hair. The new solution not only enables more screen real estate but reduces overall BOM costs by removing the hardware sensor.