Sensel is shopping around its Morph trackpad tech for use in other devices

It took two years, but Sensel finally managed to start shipping the Morph to backers. The company apparently ran into every potential pitfall for a brand new hardware manufacture, include a microscopic design flaw that forced it to scrap an entire run, resulting in around $60,000 in costs. That’s not an insignificant number for a startup — even one that’s managed to raise $10 million in funding.

But the company’s modular force sensitive track pad is here, along with a slew of different silicone overlays that bring a wide variety of different functionality, letting users edit video, play piano, edit video, play games and various other features. I played around with the system for a bit this week at CES, and it’s actually pretty impressive what the company was able to accomplish here.

The real magic lies in the Morph pad itself. On the face of it, the system is essentially a giant trackpad, featuring the company’s proprietary Pressure Grid technology. According to the company, the tech is capable of detecting force between 2g and 5kg force sensing with tracking accuracy of around 0.1mm.

Co-founder and CEO Ilya Rosenberg tells me that, in addition to showing off the final shipping product, the company is also seeking partnerships with device makers to incorporate its technology into things like trackpads.

Sensel is still young yet, so this is really just an exploratory stage, but it will be interesting to see what role such licensing deals ultimately play in the company’s bottom line moving forward.

Sony CES 2018 live blog

For Sony, CES is a show of sheer, brute force. It’s all about a big, flashy showing from a consumer electronics giant. And unlike big competitors like Samsung and LG, Sony hasn’t spent much of the past few weeks showing its hand, so there’s going to be plenty of unknown here.

That said, if past years are any indication (as they nearly always are), this is going to be a big show for TV and audio offerings. Given the way pretty much every other announcement has gone this year, it seems like a safe bet that we’ll see plenty of announcements tied to voice-based AI like Google Assistant.

And, of course, this is Sony we’re talking about, so expect lots of general weirdness around the edges.

The Sony CES 2018 live blog starts at 5:00pm PST.

Devin Coldewey January 8, 20184:42 pm

I’ll look into the tech behind the competing TV tech once the show gets started and I can get at the folks who know such things.

Devin Coldewey January 8, 20184:40 pm

LG went hard on OLED this morning (very early this morning). Then Samsung just trashed OLED in favor of Micro LED. What’s Sony’s play?

Devin Coldewey January 8, 20184:39 pm
Devin Coldewey January 8, 20184:37 pm

Brian Heater January 8, 20184:37 pm

Xperia handsets are always a possibility at these things, as well. The company company’s certainly announced those at past CESes, though with MWC coming up in a little of a month, it may just opt to keep its powder dry until then. 

Lucas Matney January 8, 20184:36 pm

To further set the stage, “Waste a Moment” by Kings of Leon is playin

Brian Heater January 8, 20184:36 pm

As mentioned above, Sony’s one of the few big names here that didn’t spill the beans ahead of the event. That said, it seems safe to assume we’ll getting the usual spread at the show: lots of TV, home hifi and personal audio news. 

Devin Coldewey January 8, 20184:35 pm

shout out to the guy blinking in the front row

Devin Coldewey January 8, 20184:35 pm

Brian Heater January 8, 20184:34 pm

It’s the usual Sony CES aesthetic, which is to say bright, even blindingly white shag carpeting and walls. 

Brian Heater January 8, 20184:33 pm

And we’re in. Like always, Sony’s converted its convention center booth into a press conference space. 

Google has planted its flag at CES

Google’s here, and it’s planning something big. The company’s presence is impossible to miss as you drive down Paradise Road toward the Las Vegas Convention Center. Like much the rest of the show, the company’s parking lot booth is still under construction today, but the giant, black and white “Hey Google” sign is already hanging above it, visible from blocks away.

It’s a slightly altered reconstruction of the whimsical invite the company sent out ahead of the show, right down to the neon blue looping slide connected to the side of the temporary structure.

Then, just as you’re wondering how the company could have pumped more into the event, two trains barreling in opposite directions pass one another on the Las Vegas monorail track out front, each baring the words, “Hey Google,” in bold, impossible to miss letters. 

Like the trains that bare its name, the company’s gone from 0 to 50 at the show with seemingly no ramp up. Outside of third parties building on top of its software solutions, Google’s never really had much of a presence at the event. All of the sudden, it seems, it’s everywhere. There’s some precedence for this, of course. At Mobile World Congress last year, the company put on a massive showing, complete with smoothies and Android sand sculptures.

Of course, a strictly mobile show made sense for the Android maker. CES is a much bigger and broader beast. But the through line is the same. At MWC, Google’s presence was all about Assistant on the phone. In this past year, the company has made a much more aggressive push to compete with Alexa in its quest to control the smart home. In 2017, it launched a family of Home products, brought a new pair of smart earbuds and began seeding Assistant onto smart speakers from third-party manufacturers.

That last bit, it seems, is a key to the show. It’s tough to say if the company is going to launch additional first-party products at the show, bucking its trend of launching at its own events like I/O. But CES is the perfect showcase to go next level with those partnerships. All of its major hardware partners are here — Sony, HTC, Lenovo, LG and the like.

Samsung may not have the most incentive to join up, assuming its planning to build out Bixby, but everyone else has a lot to gain from helping build out the Google ecosystem. Following Alexa’s path by moving off the smart speaker and on to other household items seems like a no-brainer at a show like this. 

And for Google, it’s the perfect opportunity step out from Alexa’s shadows and assert its in the smart home space once and for all.