Google has quietly bought a UK startup named Redux that uses vibrations to turn phone and tablet displays into speakers, reports Bloomberg. Its not clear when the purchase was made, or for how much the company was bought, but the acquisition happened in August last year according to Crunchbase. Redux developed a number of technologies involving sound and touch in mobile devices, but never placed them in any major consumer products. The Verge had some hands-on time with the companys tech last year, trying out a tablet which vibrated its screen to function as a speaker, as well as a number of displays that used haptic feedback to mimic the feel of buttons, sliders, and dials. The results in both cases were impressive. The sound quality from the vibrating screen was decent, and the haptic feedback made it feel like you were touching, if not physical buttons, then at least something. They clicked and buzzed in a way no other phone screens currently do. Heres a video and report from Mashable on Reduxs screen-to-speaker tech from last years MWC: Redux tech turns the screen into a speaker, and a haptic surface. Trying it out here. The sound is actually coming from the screen. For Google, a company keen to prove itself in the world of hardware, the attraction of such tech is obvious. Turning screens into speakers would help free up space inside smartphones for other components like bigger batteries. And displays with tactile feedback could offer a unique selling point for the companys devices — similar to Apples pressure-sensitive 3D touch iPhone screens. We can turn the screen into a high quality loudspeaker, eliminating the need for an embedded speaker, Reduxs Nedko Ivanov told New Electronics in an interview back in 2016. When it comes to mobile phones, we are not only saving valuable real estate and creating a waterproof housing, we are eliminating the need for additional speaker holes and most importantly, improving the audio quality. It remains to be seen what Googles plans are for this technology.
The technology could free up space for bigger batteries and other important components. Over the past year, Google has demonstrated its desire to step up its hardware game. The company bought HTC's Pixel team for $1.1 billion, designed its own imaging chip for the Pixel 2 and also hired a key Apple chip designer. Bloomberg reports that in its bid to gain an edge on the competition, Google has quietly snapped up UK startup Redux, a small team focused on delivering sound and touch feedback via mobile displays. According to filings, Google took control of the startup back in August and then subsequently shut down the company's website. Previous demonstrations show Redux playing back music via a tablet device, which possesses tiny actuators that vibrate the screen and effectively turn it into a loudspeaker. By eliminating the need for smartphone speakers, Google may be able free up more space for batteries and other important components inside future smartphones. Redux tech turns the screen into a speaker, and a haptic surface. Trying it out here. The sound is actually coming from the screen. Although Redux has already integrated similar technology inside PCs and automotive infotainment systems, it has recently focused on bringing the same technology to mobile devices. In April 2017, the company told Engadget in a statement that it believed it would begin appearing in smartphones from 2018. Google's decision to buy the company may accelerate that rollout, meaning we could see Redux's haptic sound technology come to a Google device later this year.