Google’s Project Soli gets FCC approval, paves way for true gesture-based controls
Google’s radar-based motion sensor that could make touch screens obsolete has just received the go-ahead from the FCC (Federal Communications Commission). The tech could enable wearables, phones, computers and vehicles to detect hand gestures, when it launches.
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The radar gesture chip is part of Project Soli. Some three years in the works, this is the brainchild of Google’s Advanced Technology and Projects group (ATAP).
The gizmo captures motion in a three-dimensional space. It’s so tiny, it can fit into a 1.5-inch smartwatch allowing the device to recognize not only gestures made above the screen, but also specific objects and materials. Gestures could, for example, be tapping your thumb and index finger together to press a button or rubbing the two fingers together to scroll.
According to Reuters, Facebook had raised concerns earlier that Soli’s radar would interfere with existing technologies. It seems the company is interested in 60GHz broadband for its “Terragraph” project.
But Google and Facebook came to an agreement in September, and now Project sold has FCC’s waiver to operate at the 57- to 64-GHz frequency band. This is higher than usually allowed in the US, although it is within standards established by the European Telecommunications Standards Institute. Apparently, these higher power levels were what was needed to make the chip work as it struggles to detect movement accurately at lower frequencies.
The FCC said its decision “will serve the public interest by providing for innovative device control features using touchless hand gesture technology”. It added that the tech could even be operated aboard aircraft as the chip has “minimal potential of causing harmful interference to other spectrum users.”
Mind you, the project is still only at the experimental stage. But this waiver from the FCC allows Google to reach out to third-party developers and proceed towards a commercial version of the project.
The chip could ultimately make it easier to control tiny devices such as smartwatches and do away with having to touch bacteria laden smartphone screens and media players. It could also make life easier for users with mobility or speech impairments.
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