GOOGLE HAS quietly picked up Redux, a British startup that turns any surface into a speaker.
If that sounds familiar then check the back of your drawer. Speakers that did this were all 'fidget spinner' a couple of years ago, but now the hype has died down, there's a very practical use for them - they'll save a huge amount of space in a phone.
And if your first thought is "ugh, it'll sound awful", well check the teenagers playing second-rate RnB on the back of the bus - they sound awful already. This, by all accounts, will sound better.
But if Google (and bosom chum HTC) can use the Redux technology to make, say, an AMOLED screen into a speaker, then that leaves more room for, maybe more memory… or… a bigger battery?
Google absorbed Redux shares in December and as far as we can tell, the deal was actually done as far back as last August, still way too late for the Pixel 2 line, but certainly opens up possibilities for the Pixel 3 and beyond.
Bloomberg estimates that the payout is likely to have been around $5m, reflecting the last funding round that Redux got, but no one knows for sure - Google likes playing that particular set of cards close to its chest.
But given the amount that could be saved by just not buying speaker components for the next lot of hardware? It may even pay for itself in a product cycle. And if it doesn't the applications for the technology are so vast that they'll be able to make that back by licencing the technology (over 200 patents either granted or pending) back out to other sectors.
There's clearly something in the ideas. Sony's 2018 range of tellies which, once again use the somewhat neglected Android TV platform, has a system called Acoustic Surface Technology, which the Japanese firm has been bigging up at CES this week. It uses the same principles of using the panel as a speaker, though we assume its got its own patents. Or there's gonna be a punch-up. µ
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