Google's Project Soli gains FCC approval

Soli, one of the experimental initiatives under development at Google's Advanced Technology and Projects group, has gained approval to start utilizing higher frequency bands


Project Soli, one of Google's Advanced Technology and Projects (ATAP) initiatives, received approval from the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to begin utilizing higher frequency bands in a bid to increase the accuracy of the technology.

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Project Soli uses a radar-enabled sensor to pick up on subtle and familiar hand gestures as an input method. ATAP is one of Google's in-house technology incubators, similar to X which developed the X Wing delivery drone that plans to begin its European trials in Finland in 2Q19.

Courtesy Google ATAP

The gestures the Soli sensor is able to read ­– without the use of a touchscreen or fabric –include familiar hand movements such as sliding a thumb and a forefinger together to replicate the act of turning a knob. The motion is then translated into a command such as turning down the volume on a system. The projects states that its goal is to utilize the human hand, the best input device, to create "a ubiquitous gesture interaction language that will allow people to control devices with a simple, universal set of gestures."

Courtesy Google ATAP

However, due to the fine gestures that the sensor picks up on, it requires a high-frequency band to perform well. In March 2018, Google petitioned the FCC to allow the higher frequency band as lower frequencies where "resulting in user dissatisfaction due to missed motions and fewer effective interactions".

However, following the waiver Google filed with the FCC, Facebook voiced concerns that the higher frequency band may interfere with existing technologies, leading to delays that likely slowed down the development of the project.

Both parties eventually reached an agreement in September 2018 with Facebook agreeing the higher frequency wouldn't interfere with its products and Google toning down its power request to the FCC.

On December 31, 2018, Reuters reported that the FCC had approved the waiver "to operate at higher powers than currently allowed". The FCC further noted that "grant of the waiver will serve the public interest by providing for innovative device control features using touchless hand gesture technology".

Google has yet to reveal how exactly it plans to commercialize the project but has mentioned that it could benefit users with mobility, speech and tactile impairments.


All images courtesy Google ATAP

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