With Elliptic Labs' ultrasonic gesture interfaces you'll really believe you could cut an apple in half. / Elliptic Labs

Low-power, wide-range gesture interfaces could be commercially available as soon as 2014

The next generation of gestured-based user interfaces could be coming to a smartphone near you thanks to ultrasonic technology.

Current gesture controls such as Microsoft’s Kinect use infrared light to detect movement in 3D space but a Norwegian company named Elliptic Labs has developed a new method using soundwaves instead.

The new ultrasonic system has a wider field of interaction than most infrared systems (detecting gestures above, below and to the sides of devices) and also uses very little power, making it the perfect match for hands-free control on mobile devices.

The company says it is in talks with manufacturers, and that they tech could be introduce to mainstream devices as early as next year.

Elliptic has suggested that their technology could be connected to smartphones and tablets to enable new types of gaming input or allow users to control a device whilst their hands are full in some way. One example use might be flicking through recipes on a tablet whilst a user’s hands are dirty.

The system uses microelectromechanical microphones and transducers to emit and detect sound waves sent over the ultrasonic spectrum (above 20kHz). The system measures when these soundwaves are interrupted, allowing it to track a wide range of gestures in 3D space.

The new technology won the 2013 Innovation Award at the 2013 CEATEC trade show in Japan earlier this month. A chip just millimetres across and an SDK for Android phones (a sort of manual for connecting hardware to software) were both unveiled at the event.