UltraSense offers in-plane sensing for automotive smart surfaces

UltraSense Systems, a company which has been focused on using touch and sensing technology to replace clusters of mechanical buttons on consumer electronics devices, has unveiled “in-plane” sensing for automotive applications, a capability which enables multi-mode sensing and human-machine interface (HMI) control in the plane of a smart surface, such as a steering wheel, armrest or dashboard.

Using in-plane sensing technology could drastically reduce requirements for the size, weight, build complexity and components used to create smart surfaces (also called A-surfaces), while granting greater flexibility in design and optionality in the functions that could be included in these automotive surfaces. 

UltraSense’s new in-plane sensing technology also leverages machine learning algorithms to heighten the accuracy of interactions with the surface, and reduce the likelihood of accidental activations, the company said.

Ted Theocheung, chief product and strategy officer at UltraSense, told Fierce Electronics, “With all these disruptive changes in automotive, now there are a whole bunch more things you can do and control [in autonomous and electric vehicles], but the automotive OEMs don't want the inside of a car to look like a 747 or a space shuttle with a bunch of knobs and switches all over the place.” 

He added, “So, our capabilities can activate these surfaces that may be plastic or glass, but can also be wood, leather or metal, to allow these functions to work accurately under these cool, pleasing, comforting design environments. The smart surface can present the controls only when they're needed.”

Theocheung described in-plane sensing as a major step toward delivering “a full HMI experience in the thinnest possible space.” The new technology works in combination with UltraSense’s TouchPoint family of HMI controllers, which the San Jose, California, company talked to Fierce Electronics about last year. The company also offers UltraStudio 2.0, which is an HMI user experience design and human factors evaluation tool. That tool can speed product development by helping to facilitate testing and comparing various settings of touch to feedback, including illumination, audio and haptics.

UltraSense is planning to demonstrate in-plane sensing capabilities next month at CES 2023 in Las Vegas.