Google’s ATAP or Advanced Technologies and Projects, which has been responsible for the company’s Project Ara and Project Jacquard, showcased yet another unusual piece of technology during the last day of Google I/O 2016. Called Project Soli, it is essentially a platform that uses tiny rader chips to track human gestures.
The project was first mentioned last year during Google I/O, where the company introduced us to the Soli chip. According to ATAP, the chip can be embedded in wearables, phones, computers, cars and IoT devices. This is made possible owing to its ultra-compact size of 8mm x 10mm which is also home to a sensor and antenna array.
“The sensor works by emitting electromagnetic waves in a broad beam. When objects within the beam scatter the energy, it reflects some portion back towards the radar,” explained Ivan Poupyrev, the founder of Project Soli at Google ATAP. He also claimed the the Soli’s sensor can detect sub-millimeter motion with great accuracy.
“Imagine an invisible button between your thumb and index fingers – you can press it by tapping your fingers together. Or a Virtual Dial that you turn by rubbing thumb against index finger. Imagine grabbing and pulling a Virtual Slider in thin air. These are the kinds of interactions we are developing and imagining,” detailed Google’s Project Soli page.
During the event, Google also showed a concept Soli smartwatch which is based on the LG Watch Urbane. As one would expect, the device works completely based on gestures; some of the gestures shown include flicking your fingers mid-air to register a scrolling movement and moving your hands close to the watch to wake the screen. Aside from that, the company also showcased a JBL speaker which featured Soli chip and is hand-gestures enabled.
With all that said, the technology appears to be in its early development and has not even passed Alpha stage yet. The next Soli Dev Kit can be expected in fall 2016 and in any case, its still a long wait for us consumers. For more technical details on Project Soli (Ara and Jacquard too), check out the video of the Google I/O session here.