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Future phones could use Google's new touch-free motion sensor radar

Imagine using your phone, smartwatch, or other devices without actually touching it.

Published onJanuary 2, 2019

A Google logo.
  • The FCC approved Google to test a new radar motion sensor technology called Project Soli.
  • Using this radar motion sensor, a person could manipulate a smartphone, smartwatch, or other devices without actually touching anything.
  • The testing of the motion sensor equipment required approval since Google needs to use power levels higher than what’s currently allowed.

The FCC issued a late order on Monday giving permission to Google for testing a new type of motion sensor technology known as Project Soli. Google hopes that Project Soli could open the way for users to manipulate electronic devices without actually having to touch anything.

Those of you who remember Samsung’s Air View technology introduced with the Samsung Galaxy S4 might think this is similar to that. However, that is not at all the case. Project Soli uses radar to allow users to interact with electronic devices using hand gestures in the air. For example, one could “click” on a button on a smartphone by tapping your thumb and index finger together a good distance away from your phone.

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Because the device uses radar technology, Google needed special approval from the FCC to perform its testing. Originally, Google asked for permission to operate within the 57 to 64GHz frequency band, but the FCC is only allowing the company to go slightly above currently-allowed norms. Still, the FCC is granting Google special license in this case, even if Google didn’t get everything it wanted.

Radar can penetrate fabrics, which would allow users with gloves or other clothing to continue to operate the device. It would also mean users could manipulate a device in their pocket or backpack without having to remove it.

The FCC noted that this radar technology could also work on airplanes, which would allow a future radar-based device to be used even while in flight. However, the device would have to meet FAA rules and regulations.

Project Soli is only in a testing phase for now, so it will be quite some time before we see it in any commercial product. However, the prospect of waving your hands around in the air to operate a device sounds pretty cool and futuristic.

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