Alphabet Inc.’s Google unit received approval from U.S. regulators to deploy a radar-based motion sensing device called as Project Soli.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced that 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.” Google said in documents filed with the FCC that the effort emerged from the work of Google’s Advanced Technology and Projects group that focuses on development of mobile technologies.
According to the FCC, Soli sensor captures motion in a three-dimensional space using a radar beam to enable touch free control of functions or features that can benefit users with mobility or speech impairments. The sensor allow users to press an invisible button between the thumb and index fingers or a virtual dial that turns by rubbing a thumb against the index finger. The user could operate a smart watch, scroll through music or adjust the volume by simply motioning using the system.
Google added that the radar signal could penetrate fabrics, enabling controls that could work in a pocket or a backpack. The company says that “even though these controls are virtual, the interactions feel physical and responsive” as feedback is generated by the haptic sensation of fingers touching. Google says the virtual tools can approximate the precision of natural human hand motion and the sensor can be embedded in wearable, phones, computers and vehicles. The Soli devices can be operated aboard aircraft but must still comply with Federal Aviation Administration rules governing portable electronic devices.
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