Google just got one step closer to the possibility of controlling a smart device through hand gestures from afar. It won federal approval to continue its tiny radar project from 2015, “Project Soli,” at higher power levels for better accuracy.
Google has been working on this in its experimental division for years.
Project Soli’s goal is to build a tiny radar system on a chip that can be used to detect hand gestures made above a device. Soli is only at the experimental stage right now, but Google usually pitches Soli as a concept control scheme for smartwatches, speakers, media players, and smartphones.
With this technology, you could potentially turn on a JBL smart speaker by moving a hand closer to it or turn music on or off with a flick of your fingers. The tiny radar sensors inside the speaker would sense your hand motions.
After its initial debut as a prototype, Project Soli hit a road bump because the radar wasn’t accurately noticing user gestures, and it had trouble picking up every motion. This meant that users could only attempt a limited number of gestures that a smartwatch could pick up.
The FCC’s (Federal Communications Commission) decision actually lets Google use Soli at higher than the currently allowed power levels, which was apparently needed to make the chip work. Google originally wanted approval for a power level in line with the European Telecommunications Standards Institute standards but was talked down, oddly enough, by Facebook, which was concerned about interference issues. Facebook is interested in 60GHz broadband through its “Terragraph” project.