Startup headed by ex-Apple engineer aims to eliminate smartphone buttons

Sentons, a start-up headed by a former Apple engineer Jess Lee, announced a new sensor system which utilizes ultrasonic audio waves for detecting presses, swipes and touches on an array of materials like the metallic edges around smartphones.

The tech is being used already by Asus as well as its partner company Tencent Holdings in a smartphone designed for game lovers which was released this summer in China.

In that Asus smartphone, the new sensors let gamers hold the device horizontally and use index fingers to click ‘Air Triggers’ present on its upper-edge like virtual buttons while using their thumbs to tap the screen.

In an interview with Reuters, Lee said that touch screens indeed are great but phone manufacturers weren’t able to determine how to add a sort of interactivity on the phone’s edges. As they focus on developing thinner and slimmer phones, with all metal or glass edges perhaps, there is no space left for buttons, he added.

Lee has sold a start-up image sensor company known as InVisage Technologies back in 2017 to Apple. However, he refused to identify two other phone makers with whom Sentons is currently working with.

Notably, the core of the new tech by Sentons is one custom chip which sends audio waves as well as contains algorithms and a processor for understanding several different gestures.