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Jan 26, 2019,  by Allianz Partners Business Insights

Project Soli: Google’s plan to control gadgets without the need to touch them

Using gestures such as clicking your fingers, rubbing your hands or closing your fist to control your smartphone may soon be possible thanks to a new technology developed by Google. The U.S. giant has just won federal approval to use the power levels it needs to bring its Project Soli to fruition. The innovative technology could also be used to control computers and cars remotely with a simple gesture.


Google has just won approval from the USA’s Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for its Project Soli to operate at higher power levels. Announced in 2015, Soli is a radar-based motion sensing device, as reported by Le Figaro. In granting its approval, the FCC said the decision “will serve the public interest by providing for innovative device control features using touchless hand gesture technology”.


A click of the fingers 


Project Soli comprises radars that can pick up electromagnetic waves transmitted by a chip measuring 9mm wide. The waves rebound from the user’s hand, sending a return message that controls the connected device’s interface, depending on whether the user has clicked their fingers, closed their fist, or rubbed their knucklebone, etc.

Though the idea is not a new one – Microsoft’s Kinect system was similar in nature – Google has brought greater accuracy to its innovation thanks to machine learning algorithms. Soli technology can identify gestures of the same type and link them to the same action. Clicking your fingers, for example, means play or pause music. 


Higher power levels 


To further improve the system and reduce the risk of blind spots, Google sought the FCC’s approval last March to operate in the 57- to 64-GHz frequency band, outside power levels permitted in the USA. The move was met with concern by Facebook, worried by possible interference with other connected devices on the market, including its own. 

The two companies resolved the matter by agreeing to develop chips capable of using higher power levels but at lower levels than those initially proposed by Google.


A number of uses


Since its announcement, Project Soli has generated significant interest, not least because of the potential it offers for use with computers and cars, with Google pointing to the possibility of using it to control the volume of a speaker by raising a hand or opening a door without touching the handle.

The technology is being developed in parallel with ATAP’s Project Jacquard, which devotes its energies to smart clothing. Working in partnership with Levi’s, Google has developed a Bluetooth-enabled denim jacket, the sleeve of which can be stroked by the wearer to send basic commands to their smartphone.


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