Google headquarters in London

UK start-up which turns screens into speakers acquired by Google

Image credit: Dreamstime

Google has acquired a British start-up which uses actuators to transform screens – including those of mobile devices – into loudspeakers.

Although late to the hardware game, the search giant has been increasingly focusing its sights on gadgets, releasing a range of Google-branded smartphones, smart speakers and streaming devices in the past few years. According to Rick Osterloh, senior vice-president for hardware, Google's gadgets are a combination of sophisticated hardware, software and artificial intelligence.

In 2017, the tech giant began its $1.1 billion (£810 million) takeover of the HTC Pixel team; in doing so it absorbed 2000 employees, many of whom had worked on the development of Google’s Pixel smartphone model. The acquisition was interpreted as a signal that Google is determined to mark out a significant place in the smartphone market.

Now, Bloomberg has reported that Google acquired a UK-based start-up, Redux, through an Ireland-based subsidiary in August 2017.

The Cambridge-based start-up was working to make screens function as loudspeakers, as well as developing more sophisticated haptic feedback technology. Following its acquisition – through an Ireland-based subsidiary of Google – it closed its own website.

“Redux allows manufacturers to make all kinds of devices more usable, responsive, versatile, discreet and robust,” the now-archived website said.

The start-up had an intellectual property base of more than 170 patents. It used small actuators to cause screens to vibrate, effectively transforming them into speakers. The start-up had already demonstrated this technology in PCs and infotainment systems, and was beginning to move to bringing the technology to smartphones and tablets.

Redux was reportedly planning to roll out its haptic sound technology in phones beginning in 2018.

If Google is able to use this technology in their own phones, it could free up a certain amount of space in their phones currently used for microspeakers. This space could either be used for larger batteries and other hardware, or to reduce the thickness of their phones further. Redux’s expertise could also be used to develop better sound for Google’s other hardware, such as its Google Home smart speaker.

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