Elliptic Labs gesture control could be Kinect for your phone by 2014

Motion-tracking technology that allows you to control your smartphone from several feet away, even when it's away on a nearby table, could show up in handsets as soon as next year. Elliptic Labs gesture control system uses tiny ultrasonic sensors to grant 180-degree awareness to phones and tablets, picking up hand movement from up to three feet away, whether it's in front of the device or off to the side. Now, the company says, it's finally almost time for the sensor tech to show up in production hardware.

The Norwegian firm is currently in talks with Asian mobile device manufacturers, Phys.org reports, around incorporating the ultrasonics system into upcoming handsets.

Motion-tracking systems like Microsoft's Kinect generally rely on infrared to monitor gestures and actions. However, Elliptic Labs says its ultrasonics system demands a fraction of the power, as well as being smaller than the optical alternatives.

That's been the result of some serious slimming over the years. In fact, we first saw the Elliptic Labs technology back in 2008 when it was integrated into a relatively bulky monitor. The system showed up again a few years later, in late 2010, as part of an oversized iPad stand.

Since then, the company has collaborated with Murata, integrating the gesture system with the component company's SMD ultrasonic sensor. That, the company – which already supplies Apple with the iPhone 5s' WiFi module, among other things – says, is the world's smallest example of an ultrasonic detector. The MEMS microphones can also be used for voice pickup and background-noise-reduction.

The end result is a device which can be navigated and controlled simply by waving a hand near to it. According to Elliptic Labs, it can readily be integrated with existing apps – the company has been showing off a modified Android device – and used in everything from games like Fruit Ninja, through streamlining data transfers such as "flinging" photos from one device to another, and controlling playlists of music by waving near the handset.

Elliptic Labs' isn't the only system aiming to track movement in mobile devices. Leap Motion's sensor, which we reviewed earlier this year, will show up integrated into an HP laptop, while Google recently acquired Flutter, a company which uses standard webcams to offer gesture control in OS X.