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Google’s Project Soli to Move Forward Following FCC Approval

By Bill Toulas / January 2, 2019

Project Soli is an innovative project announced at Google I/O back in 2015 by the company’s ATAP (Advanced Technology and Projects) group. This new project introduced a way to capture the user’s hand and finger movement through a radar-based system and transform it into a highly accurate input. From the practicality perspective, Soli allows users to interact with their devices without holding anything, touching a screen, or any other aids of any kind.

This new and groundbreaking method of interaction requires the emission of a radar beam from the chip-sized unit in order to sense the motion of the user’s fingers. The more powerful the radar, the more accurate the sensing becomes. So far though, Google couldn’t convince the FCC to allow the Soli system to operate at a higher frequency band, so the prototypes remained relatively inaccurate and their operation was not very inspiring to experimental users. All this caused a significant delay in the development of the Project Soli, as there was no other feasible technical solution to turn things around and override that low power limit defined by the FCC.

Fast forward three years, and Google has submitted a waiver to the FCC, asking them to allow the operation of Soli on power levels that were higher than FCC’s upper limits, but still within the range defined as safe by the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (57-64 GHz). FCC decided to grant Google’s waiver, approving the requested increase of radar power, and justifying the decision with the following statement: “We further find that grant of the waiver will serve the public interest by providing for innovative device control features using touch-less hand gesture technology.”

Project Soli will surely make an impact on the way we use our smart devices in the next couple of years, but the most benefited group of people is expected to be those who suffer from kinetic problems and disabilities. The next step for Google will be to secure approval of the Soli system by the Federal Aviation Administration so that portable electronic devices that incorporate this new movement sensing radar are allowed in flights.

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