FCC gives Google go-ahead to trial Project Soli touchless technology

2 Jan 2019

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Get ready for a new wave of computing based on hand gestures within a 3D space.

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 currently permissible.

The US communications regulator approved a waiver that will allow Google to continue Project Soli as it originally intended.

Project Soli sensors capture motion in a three-dimensional space using radar beams, and allow users to do computational tasks with gestures. The project provides tactile feedback of interacting with your fingers but in a wireless context. The technology could be beneficial to people with mobility or speech impairments.

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The FCC said that its decision will serve the public interest by boosting innovation in the field of touchless technology.

Project Soli was originally announced at Google’s I/O shindig in 2015. It does not require a touchscreen and works in a virtual space through radar-sensing the motion of fingers. The radar beam is emitted from a chip-sized object capable of capturing and processing movements.

The go-ahead was given by the FCC after Google pointed out that while Soli requires higher frequency bands than permitted in the US, the power levels were in line with the standards from the European Telecommunications Standards Institute.

Originally, internet rival Facebook and other tech firms had raised concerns that the higher power levels might interfere with existing technologies. However, an agreement reached with Facebook in September whereby Google somewhat toned down its power request led to the social network relaxing its stance on the subject.

In its order, the FCC said: “We find that the Soli sensors, when operating under the waiver conditions specified herein, pose minimal potential of causing harmful interference to other spectrum users and uses of the 57-64GHz frequency band, including for the earth exploration satellite service (EESS) and the radio astronomy service (RAS). We further find that grant of the waiver will serve the public interest by providing for innovative device control features using touchless hand gesture technology.”

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years