Google has received approval by the American Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for its Project Soli. This aims to replace buttons and touchscreens on smart devices with hand gestures.
Once established the interactive control system will use radar-based motion sensors that can detect and track hand movements. Google boasts that the tracking will be within a millimetre accuracy.
This means that we will eventually be able to control everything from a smart TV to a smart watch in an intuitive touch-free environment. This will be done through gestures such as tapping your thumb and index finger together for a virtual button press or rubbing two fingers together to scroll or turn a dial.
These would be ideal, Google says, for small devices such as smart watches, which don’t necessarily have sufficient space for a sizeable touch screen or lots of buttons.
Even though these controls are virtual, the interactions feel physical and responsive. Feedback is generated by the haptic sensation of fingers touching each other. Without the constraints of physical controls, these virtual tools can take on the fluidity and precision of our natural human hand motion.- Project Soli: website
While this is still some way off, Project Soli founder, Ivan Pouyrev, an award-winning designer and scientist has a real passion for this project.
Capturing the possibilities of human hands was one of my passions. How could we take this incredible capability, the finesse of human actions, and apply it to the virtual world?
What is most exciting about it is you can shrink the entire radar and put it in a tiny chip. That’s what makes this approach so promising. It’s extremely reliable, there’s nothing to break.
There’re no moving parts, there’s no lenses, there’s nothing, it’s a piece of sand on your board.- Ivan Pouyrev: head of Project Soli, ATAP
The project has been in the pipeline since 2015 and is being developed at Google’s Advanced Technology & Projects (ATAP) division, which, unfortunately has a track record of grand announcements that never quite see the light of day. But the approval by the FCC has given this latest concept a much-needed boost.
The FCC itself believes the decision, ‘will serve the public interest by providing innovative device control features using touchless hand gesture technology.’
So far, all we can say is watch this space. In the meantime, practice those hand gestures.