Qeexo Wants to Replace Your Proximity Sensor With EarSense
We have often heard how smartphone design has stagnated over the past few years with many smartphones bearing a stark resemblance to each other. Some companies such as Xiaomi have been trying to change this with the introduction of smartphones with radically different designs such as the Mi Mix. Other companies are slowly creeping towards a more bezel-less design, such as the Essential Phone or the Samsung Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+, however the screen alone isn’t what made the Mi Mix so unique. One of the biggest design changes that the Mi Mix pioneered was the removal of the earpiece speaker which was replaced with what the company calls a “cantilever piezoelectric ceramic acoustic technology.”
It’s changes like this that OEMs are looking for to make their device look and feel unique from the rest of the market. This is where a company called Qeexo comes into play with their EarSense technology. You may not have heard of them before, but one of their products may already be on your smartphone. Their previous technology, FingerSense, is what powers Huawei’s Knuckle Gestures. EarSense is a new technology by Qeexo which aims to aid OEMs in replacing the traditional proximity sensor found in our devices.
Compared to a traditional proximity sensor which is a piece of hardware that is generally packed in the top bezel of our smartphones, EarSense is a software alternative – so it doesn’t take up any space on the phone. The goal of this proprietary software solution is to allow OEMs to free up space from inside the phone (for other components) as EarSense will be able to recognize contact with someone’s face and ears so that it can turn off the screen during a phone call – a function normally accomplished through use of the proximity sensor. You can see a demo of this in action in the video below.
By freeing up this space inside the device, Qeexo hopes that it will enable OEMs to use that space for some other innovative hardware. We saw Samsung start to add an iris scanner to the top bezel of their phones so software like this could enable future devices to feel less cramped in this area of the phone. It could also allow for future devices to more easily transition to the true bezel-less design that we’re currently seeing a trend towards.
In an interview with XDA-Developers, the CEO of Qeexo, Sang Won Lee, told us that EarSense, much like FingerSense, is a software solution that is licensed out to OEMs for implementation in their devices. That means it’s ultimately up to the OEMs to implement EarSense into their OS, and to provide an API so third-party voice calling applications such as Hangouts, Google Duo, or Whatsapp can also take advantage of it.
Currently, these applications assume that any given smartphone is operating with a hardware proximity sensor in place, as such hardware is universally present on mobile devices. However, if EarSense, a software-only alternative, were to take off – then these applications may need to rethink that assumption. It’s possible that OEMs may implement EarSense in a way that it seamlessly replaces the hardware proximity sensor – such that third-party applications do not need to be updated – but we’ll have to wait and see how the first OEMs to implement the technology play this out.
Although some way not be a fan of proprietary software replacing the tried-and-true proximity sensor, the potential physical benefits that removing this hardware may bring can’t be denied. But, given that there are legitimate uses of the proximity sensor outside of turning on/off the screen during voice calls, it may not be worth the trade-off for some users in the end.