Google's radar chip detects hand motions, creating a gesture control system.

Enlarge / Google’s radar chip detects hand motions, creating a gesture control system. (credit: Google)

Google’s radar-based gesture control system for mobile devices, Project Soli, isn’t dead yet. The project, which was announced all the way back in 2015, has popped up at the FCC, where it has been approved for use in the 57- to 64-GHz frequency band.

Project Soli’s goal is to build a tiny radar system on a chip that can be used to detect hand gestures made above a device. Soli is only at the experimental stage right now, but Google usually pitches Soli as a concept control scheme for smartwatches, speakers, media players, and smartphones. Usually the gestures shown are things like tapping your thumb and index finger together for a virtual button press or rubbing the two fingers together to scroll or turn a dial. The idea makes the most sense for tiny devices like a smartwatch, which don’t necessarily have the space for a sizable touch screen and lots of buttons. It could also have benefits for users with limited mobility.

The FCC’s decision actually lets Google use Soli at higher than the currently allowed power levels, which was apparently needed to make the chip work. Google originally wanted approval for a power level in line with the European Telecommunications Standards Institute standards but was talked down, oddly enough, by Facebook, which was concerned about interference issues. Facebook is interested in 60GHz broadband through its “Terragraph” project.

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