In the first few days of the new year, Google has its eyes on the future.
The company, a division of parent company Alphabet Inc., has acquired Redux, a U.K.-based startup.
The startup “creates products and bespoke systems that enable high-resolution haptic feedback and speakerless surround sound audio,” according to Crunchbase. In other words, its technology eliminates the need for speakers and buttons in smartphones.
Crunchbase claimed the acquisition took place this past August. Regulatory filings confirmed the deal in December, Bloomberg reports.
Last April, Redux announced it had developed “panel audio technology,” to replace smartphone speakers with sound coming directly from the screen. It also launched haptics effects to give users the feeling of buttons under their touchscreens.
“The ‘convergence’ of smartphone designs is largely down to a number of fundamental physical restrictions — from the size of the micro-speakers and other components, to the need to cut the front glass for the earpiece speakers, and the practical limitations of where to put buttons,” Redux stated in its announcement. “Redux…overcomes these limitations and opens up new design possibilities — from the exterior design to the user interface.”
Just over a week before, Redux had raised $5 million, led by Arie Capital, to bring its products to market.
Alphabet could not be reached for comment.
Redux’s technology could be big news for Alphabet’s Google Pixel phones. Stereo sound coming directly from the screens could make the phone look and sound slicker, and customers nostalgic for buttons and physical keyboards will spring for the improved haptic feedback. Plus, Redux’s tech, which eliminates the need for speakers and other physical components, could free up space for a larger battery or other new functionality. It also removes the gaps that speakers and buttons create, paving the way for fully waterproof devices, and could even enable the coveted bezel-less screen.
Smartphones aren’t the only market in which Google is hunting for screen-shaped dominance. At CES on Tuesday the company announced four new Google Assistant-empowered “smart displays” as the newest weapon in its long-winded war with Amazon. After Google Home lost the top holiday sale spot to — you guessed it — the Amazon Echo, it’s clear that when it comes to hardware, Google could use any edge it can get.
But after the first CES, where the company had a prominent booth of its own, things are looking up. LG’s Google Assistant-enabled 4K TVs were a sight to behold. And since the collapse of Blackberry’s operating system, BBOS, it’s been clear that Android is the software to rule them all.
With Redux’s impressive hardware, and software that’s hot on the heels of Apple and Amazon, this may just be Google’s year.