Google's Project Soli team is developing a radar sensor that can control speakers and smartwatches without touching them.
Advanced Technologies and Projects (ATAP), the Google division responsible for Project Soli, gave some updates about the project during the Google I/O event. The tiny radar sensor can translate hand gestures to digital signals, which can be used to build a fresh user interface (UI) for wearables.
Google announced Project Soli at the 2015 Google I/O and the company has already shipped a limited number of developer kits. The way developers used the kit encouraged the Project Soli team to build musical instruments, object recognition tools and more.
However, the developer kit that includes a small sensor consumes a lot of power and needs a desktop or a laptop.
Google explains that the technology behind the radar sensor works by "emitting electromagnetic waves in a broad beam."
Some portion of the energy is reflected back to the radar by the objects that come within the beam. Reflected signal properties such as time delay, frequency and more captures information such as distance, velocity, shape and more.
"Soli tracks and recognizes dynamic gestures expressed by fine motions of the fingers and hand. In order to accomplish this with a single chip sensor, we developed a novel radar sensing paradigm with tailored hardware, software, and algorithms," says Google. "Unlike traditional radar sensors, Soli does not require large bandwidth and high spatial resolution; in fact, Soli's spatial resolution is coarser than the scale of most fine finger gestures."
Embedding the radar sensor in smartwatches will allow users to execute some functions with simple gestures. During Google I/O, the company also gave a demo on how users can scroll through the messages in a smartwatch by holding their hand over the wearable.
Google also noted that even though Project Soli has great implications in the wearables market, the tiny radar sensor can also be used in other objects. The Project Soli team has also worked with JBL and built prototypes of speakers that can be used with simple gestures. The Soli radar allows users to control the speakers from a distance of about 15 meters (49 feet).
It is unknown by when Google plans to introduce the first products under Project Soli but the company is planning to launch a new beta-quality developer kit in 2017.
Check out a short video on Project Soli.