Google Wins US Approval for Radar-Based Hand Motion Sensor


Alphabet’s Google unit gained approval from US regulators to set up a radar-based movement sensing device called Project Soli.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) said in an order late Monday that it would grant Google a waiver to operate the Soli detectors at higher energy levels than currently allowed. The FCC explained the sensors can also be operated aboard aircraft.

The FCC said the decision “will serve the public interest by providing for advanced device control attributes using touchless hand gesture technologies.”

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A Google spokeswoman did not immediately comment on Tuesday, citing the New Year’s Day holiday.

The FCC said the Soli sensor captures movement in a three-dimensional space by means of a radar beam allowing touchless control of functions or features that can benefit users with freedom or speech impairments.

Google says the sensor can allow users to press an invisible button between the thumb and index fingers or a virtual dial which turns by rubbing a thumb against the index finger.

The business says that “although these controls are virtual, the connections feel bodily and responsive” as feedback is created by the haptic sensation of hands touching.

Google states the virtual tools can approximate the precision of natural human hand motion and the sensor could be embedded in wearables, phones, computers and vehicles.

Back in March, Google asked the FCC to allow its short-range interactive motion-sensing Soli radar to function in the 57- to 64-GHz frequency band at power levels consistent with European Telecommunications Standards Institute standards.

Facebook raised concerns with the FCC the Soli detectors operating in the spectrum band at higher power levels might have issues coexisting with other technology.

After talks, Google and Facebook collectively informed the FCC in September that they agreed the sensors could operate at higher than allowed power levels without interference but at lower rates than previously proposed by Google.

Facebook told the FCC in September it anticipated a “variety of use cases to grow with respect to brand new radar apparatus, such as Soli.”

The Soli devices may be operated aboard aircraft however, should nevertheless comply with Federal Aviation Administration rules regulating portable electronic devices.


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