Google's Experimental Radar Sensors That Replace Buttons With Gestures Get FCC Approval

Google’s ‘Minority Report’ miniature radar could herald new touchless tech

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.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) said in an order late on Monday that it would grant Google a waiver to operate the Soli sensors at higher power levels than now allowed.

Back in 2015, Google first demoed Project Soli at Google I/O conference. The FCC document that officially approved the project said that it could be used "to enable touchless control of device functions or features, which can benefit users with mobility, speech and tactile impairments".

A Google spokeswoman did not immediately comment on Tuesday, citing the New Year's Day holiday. The technology can also be deployed on aircraft, the FCC said.

These sensors are related to Project Soli, an effort by Google's Advanced Technologies and Products division to detect hand gestures using radar.

"Imagine an invisible button between your thumb and index fingers - you can press it by tapping your fingers together", says Google.

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Google added that the radar signal could penetrate fabrics, enabling controls that could work in a pocket or a backpack. The sensor can be embedded into computers, wearables, and vehicles for easy hands-free control.

In a December 31st, 2018 FCC order, the Commission found that Google's Soli sensors would pose "minimal potential of causing harmful interference to other spectrum users and uses of the 57-64 GHz frequency band".

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.

However, the two companies later agreed that the sensors could operate at power levels higher than are now allowed but lower than Google had originally proposed.

The company told the FCC that without the higher power levels that field testing showed blind spots could occur close to the sensor location. One of them is called Project Soli. Back then, the Korean company implemented camera sensors, while now Google is working on radar sensitivity that reads all kinds of hand gestures in the air.

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