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Tuesday, February 17, 2015

How Ultrasonics May Change The Way We Control Things

Knowles MEMS ultrasonic digital microphone image
Knowles has been making specialty audio gear since 1947 and you use many of their products every day without even knowing it. Their tiny microphone and speaker products are found in a variety of cell phones, game controllers, television, computers and headsets, and their condenser mic capsules have long been a place where specialty mic designers have started from.

The company has a new audio product that could actually change the way that we use touch screens. The size of the tip of a pen, it can sense when ultrasonic frequencies are being disturbed, which would allow a user to control a device screen via a hand or finger gesture up to 12 inches away.

The ultrasonic MEMS (micro-electro-mechanical-system) microphone is a true digital microphone with a frequency response up to 80kHz. It's specifically built for low power applications like in a mobile device, but I can see it being used in other applications as well.

For instance, although Slate Digital's Raven controller is an incredibly innovative product, I question the long term use of the touchscreen. It seems like constant arm reaching would result in some sort of repetitive stress disorder like tennis elbow or even something we've not experienced yet. A screen with MEMS would allow you to sit back in your chair and control the screen without a long arm reach.

Of course, being able to control your tablet or phone without touching it would speed up operations, which would be important when mixing a show or setting up a monitor mix.

To be sure this technology has been tried before but hasn't caught on mostly because your finger had to be within 2 inches of the screen, which defeats the purpose of the idea. MEMS could solve all that.

We sometimes forget about the audio out of our natural hearing bandwidth, but Knowles MEMS technology reminds us that ultrasonics can be useful too.


Don't forget to check out my Music 3.0 blog for tips and tricks on navigating social media and the new music business.

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