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updated: 7/3/2014 12:58 PM

Itasca's Knowles takes microphone to new level

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  • Knowles Corp. said it has developed a digital microphone for a smartphones or tablet with touchless gesture recognition, phone-to-phone data transmission, and other features.

    Knowles Corp. said it has developed a digital microphone for a smartphones or tablet with touchless gesture recognition, phone-to-phone data transmission, and other features.


Itasca-based Knowles Corp. said it is has developed a digital microphone with ultrasonic technology that allows you to answer or end a call on a smartphone without swiping or touching the screen.

The device also will allow you to transfer data between the smartphone and another device by just holding it up nearby. And you could write a note on paper and this technology will sense it, duplicate it on the screen, and save it in a digital format.

"It's a really great microphone that lets me do the coolest things that I couldn't do before," said Peter van Kessel of Glen Ellyn, vice president of engineering at Knowles, which spun off from Downers Grove-based Dover in February.

The engineering team behind the new microphone has worked on the project for about a year and a half. The device is expected to begin manufacturing this fall and go into next-generation smartphones and other electronics. The company wouldn't release name brands of smartphones due to confidentiality agreements, van Kessel said.

The new Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems, known as MEMS microphone, offers strong acoustics while using a low amount of power. It also receives ultrasonic sound waves above the audible range of humans and uses those waves to determine an object's location and movement. It works similarly to radar or an ultrasound for a pregnancy, he said.

So when you pick up a call on a smartphone in the near future, you won't have to swipe the screen to answer. Instead the microphone will sense your hand and will allow you to just answer the call. The same will happen when you're about to end the call and place the smartphone back, it will automatically end the call.

"Anyone who uses a cellphone can use this," van Kessel said.

The microphone also will be able to transmit data, such as information about a product at a store, just by holding it next to another device at the retailer. The data will be transmitted to the smartphone, and built-in security will keep the transmission safe, he said.

"This is the first product in this kind of category," he said.

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