Google’s Soli sensors herald the coming age of realtime 3D portable motion sensors

Google Soli sensors have won approval from the FCC, which includes their usage aboard aircraft. Google’s Soli sensors, which use radars to capture motion in realtime in a 3D space, can enable touchless control of functions.

Google’s Project Soli got a shot in the arm after it received an approval from U.S. regulators to deploy a radar-based motion sensing device.

In an order issued by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) late on Monday, the regulator granted Google a waiver to operate the Soli sensors at higher power levels than is currently allowed. Further, as per the order, the FCC also allowed the sensors to be operated aboard an aircraft.

Although the Soli sensors have been allowed to be operated aboard aircraft, they will still have to comply with the Federal Aviation Administration rules governing portable electronic devices.

The FCC stated, its ruling “will serve the public interest by providing for innovative device control features using touchless hand gesture technology.”

A spokeswoman from Google did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

As per a statement from the FCC, Google’s Soli sensor captures motion in realtime in a three-dimensional space using a radar beam to enable touchless control of functions. The Soli sensor will be hugely beneficial to those who are speech impaired or have issed with mobility.

According to Google, the Soli sensor allows users to press an invisible button between the thumb and index fingers, or even turn a virtual dial by rubbing a thumb against the index finger. Significantly, “even though these controls are virtual, the interactions feel physical and responsive” as feedback is generated by the haptic sensation of fingers touching.

These virtual tools can very precisely approximate the natural precision of motion of the human hand. The Soli sensor can be embedded in wearables, vehicles, computers and phones.

In March 2018, Google has requested the FCC to allow its short-range interactive motion sensing Soli radar to operate in the 57- to 64-GHz frequency band at power levels consistent with European Telecommunications Standards Institute standards.

At that time, Facebook Inc had raised concerns with the FCC that the Soli sensors operating in the spectrum band at higher power levels might have issues coexisting with other technologies. However, following discussions, Google and Facebook jointly informed the FCC in September 2018 that they have come to an agreement that the Soli sensors could operate at higher than currently allowed power levels without interference but at lower levels than previously proposed by Google.

In September 2018, Facebook told the FCC that it expected a “variety of use cases to develop with respect to new radar devices, including Soli.”

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