Google Gains US Approval For Radar-Based Gesture Control System

Google has gained official approval from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for its radar-based system that allows for gesture controls.

Project Soli was initially announced back in 2015 and is essentially a radar-based input method that “provides the tactile feedback of interacting with your fingers.”

The US Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO) published two patent applications by Google in 2016, that detailed the radar-based system that allows for gesture control for devices such as televisions and smart watches.

FCC approval

It should be remembered that gesture-based interfaces have gained in popularity with the spread of mobile devices, but most still rely on a touchscreen or detect movements made by a control unit, as is the case of Microsoft’s Kinect gaming controller.

That said, Apple, Microsoft and Samsung are among the companies known to be working on in-air interfaces and have applied for patents relating to them; one Samsung patent application, for instance, details a gesture-based control system to be used with a virtual-reality headset or a SmartGlass device.

Apple meanwhile acquired PrimeSense, which developed Kinect, in 2013.

And now Reuters reported that the FCC as saying it would grant Google a waiver to operate the Soli sensors at higher power levels than currently allowed. The FCC said the sensors can also be operated aboard aircraft.

The FCC said the decision “will serve the public interest by providing for innovative device control features using touchless hand gesture technology.”

The Soli sensor captures motion in a three-dimensional space using a radar beam to enable touchless control of functions or features, which should benefit users with mobility or speech impairments.

A user can for example can bring together their thumb and forefinger finger to tap a button or replicate the gesture of turning a knob. Or the user can slide their thumb along an extended forefinger as if where a volume slider.

Spectrum usage

Google had reportedly last March asked the FCC to allow the Soli radar to operate in the 57- to 64-GHz frequency band at power levels consistent with European Telecommunications Standards Institute standards.

But concerns were raised by Facebook that the Soli sensors operating in the spectrum band at higher power levels might have issues coexisting with other technologies.

Google and Facebook then sat down and reached an agreement so that the sensors could operate at higher than currently allowed power levels without interference but at lower levels than previously proposed by Google.

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Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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