Acconeer joins forces with Imagimob and Flexworks to develop gesture-controlled in-ear headphones

Acconeer, Imagimob and Flexworks has decided to join forces in a Vinnova-funded project to develop gesture-controlled in-ear headphones. Using the profound expertise of the three different companies, the project will be a unique combination of research in advanced radar technology, expertise in AI (deep learning) and expertise in designing and manufacturing consumer electronics products. A first working prototype is expected within the first year of the project. The global headphones industry is growing fast and is estimated to reach $20 billion in 2023.

Using gesture-control provides headphone product owners with new possibilities to design the user interface. However, the Radar + AI technology that will be developed in the project can be applied in other areas as well. The technology will contribute to a healthier and safer society, as there will be no need to touch equipment such as vending machines, access control systems and other systems. The technology can also solve many different needs in markets for consumer electronics where size, cost, and power consumption are key constraints. Examples are vital signs monitoring of elderly population and surface detection for electric powered robots.

To finance the project, Sweden’s innovation agency Vinnova has granted the Acconeer consortium four million SEK (approximately 400k USD), in fierce competition with over 50 other applications evaluated by a board of independent assessors. The project will be part of the strategic innovation program Smarter Electronic Systems – a joint investment by Vinnova, Formas and Swedish Energy Agency.

Imagimob provides Edge AI software development tools and AI expertise. Imagimob AI is a software suite for the development of Edge AI applications. Edge AI enables small devices with intelligence and data processing capabilities, to empower customers with actionable insights—in real-time. Imagimob AI uses deep learning techniques and is working on all types of time series data. The output from Acconeer’s radar is ideal for this type of algorithms.

Flexworks has a unique knowledge in developing and manufacturing small embedded systems for headphone , hearing protector and IoT products. The ICs and toolchains used for these kinds of products are highly specialized because of the size, power and price constraints. Together with the products relatively short lifecycles there is a substantial threshold to overcome in order to succeed with the development. Flexworks has experience with this kind of development and is also listed as a preferred partner with some of the relevant IC vendors.

By combining these skills with Acconeer’s knowledge in high precision, low power pulsed coherent radar, the three companies aspire to pave the ground for gesture-control of in-ear headphones as well as other consumer electronics products with high demands on physical footprint, power consumption and precision.