Google secretly acquired a UK startup that could make smartphone speakers obsolete

Lynsey Barber
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Google makes its own smartphone, the Pixel, and smart speakers (Source: Getty)

Google quietly acquired a UK tech startup without anyone noticing - until now that is.

The US tech giant snapped up Cambridge firm Redux which can turn screens into speakers using haptic feedback.

Neither the date of the acquisition, first spotted by Bloomberg, or how much Google paid has been revealed.

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Social media promotion of the company through its own accounts ended in April 2017 while financial accounts for NVF Tech - the name under which Redux is registered - show Google employees were made directors in July, while employees of Redux and its investor Arie Capital were removed.

A filing on 13 December shows Google Ireland, ultimately owned by Alphabet, acquired all shareholdings.

Financial statements for 2016, filed in July, showed an operating loss of around £3m and noted an injection of £4m cash was made after the year end.

It employed eight people, according to the accounts and LinkedIn, where it described its "breakthrough technology".

"Redux has developed breakthrough technology which transforms the user experience by bringing surfaces to life with Sound and Touch," it said in an "about us" section of the company.

"Wherever there are touch panels and displays, there is now the potential to boost safety, increase productivity and enrich the user experience with naturalistic sound and haptic feedback. With 178 granted patents, over 50 pending patent applications, and global engagement with leaders in multiple vertical markets, our vision is to bring the next generation of user experience to every consumer."

Redux was formed in 2013 from HiWave Technologies, a publicly listed audio and haptics manufacturer that went into administration.

Chief executive Nedko Ivanov, who left in August according to his LinkedIn profile, said in 2016 that the company hoped to break even by 2018.

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The implication of the technology is that it could make speakers in smartphones obsolete. Smartphone makers are looking for ways to free up space, with Apple having removed the headphone jack in the iPhone 7.

Google launched its first phone in 2016, long with Google Home, a smart speaker with which it is hoping to compete against Amazon's Echo. Facebook and Apple are also expected to launch their own speaker devices in the coming months as the focus of tech companies moves from screens to voice.

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