Google acquires United Kingdom startup with speaker-less audio & sound-based haptics tech

Posted January 12, 2018

Google reportedly went under the radar and acquired a United Kingdom startup that turns screens, such as phone displays, into speakers.

It's not yet known when Alphabet - through an Ireland-based subsidiary of Google - bought the startup, but United Kingdom regulatory filings show that the transfer of shares was completed in mid-December.

The startup called Redux developed the technology called Panel Audio that allowed the panels or screens to produce audio without needing any speakers. Google declined to comment on the price and details of the deal. "Moreover, our surface audio technology is more power efficient than traditional micro speakers, which means people can play music and watch videos on their phones for longer between charges". Redux is able to turn screens into a speakers by vibrating the screen itself. The actual deal was reportedly made in August 2017. The acquisition could prove useful to Google, and could change the way it designed its future Pixel smartphones.

Some of Redux's tech has already appeared in PCs and vehicle infotainment systems. With Google's acquisition, that may change soon. The current Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL were criticized by some quarters for not trimming their bezels quite as aggressively as other devices on the market did.

Alphabet has a range of potential uses for the technology. If replaced, that could leave more space for a larger battery or other components: even, perhaps, the return of the 3.5mm headphone jack, were Google so inclined.

At CES 2018, Google mainly focused on promoting its smart speakers and its new line of Smart Display devices, its direct competitor to the Amazon Echo Show. Panel Audio could allow Google to cram a lot more hardware into its phones, which could give it more room to boost the on-device artificial intelligence services it has been pushing over the past year.