According to a recent article by Bloomberg, late last year Google sneakily picked up a U.K.-based startup called Redux that was working on some snazzy tech which can turn surfaces—like the screen on a phone or tablet—into speakers, and even provide more focused haptic effects. The precise date of the acquisition isn't certain, but according to Crunchbase, the deal was announced last August.
Redux's site has been taken down since the acquisition, but thanks to the magic of the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine, we can see some of the details behind the startup. Redux imagined many potential uses for its products, but the first application listed—and by far, the most interesting—is for mobile devices like phones.
On that subject, the site says that the Redux's products can provide, "Great stereo audio directly from the screen, eliminating the need for micro-speakers and releasing valuable internal space for extending battery or other components," and that it can "focus desired haptic effects at specific touch-points." So not only can the company's tech turn a flat surface like the screen of a phone into a pair of speakers, but it can also be used to provide focused haptic feedback—for instance, to make certain parts of the screen "feel" different.
So far, Google doesn't seem to have integrated any of Redux's tech into its products, but if the acquisition were that recent, they wouldn't have had the time to. It's speculative, but it could be that Google plans on heating things up in the continued 2018 bezel race with some in-screen speakers on the next Pixel(s), or maybe it plans on using the company's improved haptics for a Taptic-like experience.
Whatever it is that Google has planned for Redux's tech, we'll just have to wait and see.