FCC Approves Google's 'Soli' Radar-Based Motion Sensor

A hand interacts with a wireless spectrum signal

A hand interacts with a wireless spectrum signal

Google has won approval from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to trial its new Project Soli sensors using radar beams at higher power levels than now permissible.

But it wasn't until earlier this week (and after a small push from Facebook) that Google actually got the go-ahead it needed to deploy its tech in the real world.

Credit: Google/YouTubeEarlier this week, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) gave Google the OK for the company's Soli sensor to operate at higher powers than now allowed. Soli captures hand motions and other gestures in a three-dimensional space using radar beams, the FCC said.

The ability to recognize users' touchless hand gestures to control a device, such as a smartphone, could help people with mobility, speech, or tactile impairments, 48 which in turn could lead to higher productivity and quality of life for many members of the American public.

This tactic offers some advantages over traditional touchscreen controls, because, since you can already tell when your hands or fingers touch something, there's no need to add additional haptic feedback or vibrating motors to reassure folks that the device is working.

Announced all the way back at Google I/O 2015, Soli aims to allow users to control smart devices with gestures, just like Tom Cruise's character does in Minority Report.

Google and Facebook jointly told the FCC in September that they agreed the sensors could operate at higher than now allowed power levels without interference. The FCC also said the Soli motion sensor can be used on flights.

The whole Soli chip can be packed in an ultra-compact 8mm x 10mm package, so it can be easily embedded in wearables, phones, computers, cars and IoT devices. But instead of "seeing" the objects, it senses them by radar and uses this input to ascertain what the object is.

Google in March asked FCC to grant its waiver, according to the order. The reason for FCC to approve the test of such technology is using higher frequencies.

In a letter to the agency in October, Google argued it needs to run the sensors at higher-than-allowed power levels to make the technology commercially viable.

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