Google won approval from U.S. regulators to deploy a radar-based motion sensing device known as Project Soli.
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 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.”
The FCC said the Soli sensor captures motion in a three-dimensional space using a radar beam to enable touchless control of functions or features that can benefit users with mobility or speech impairments.
Soli is a sensing technology that uses radar to detect hand motions of less than a millimeter. The sensing technology is paired with a language of hand gestures that allow an app to translate movement into a command. For example, tapping your thumb and index finger together is translated into a button push, and sliding your thumb back-and-forth across the pad of your index finger turns a dial. Google 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. The company says the virtual tools can approximate the precision of natural human hand motion and the sensor can be embedded in wearables, phones, computers and vehicles.
The Soli hardware consists of a sensor and antenna which draws very little power and fits on an 8mm x 10mm chip. The chip is small enough to be used in everything from watches and phones to televisions and cars. Google has created an SDK which gives developers easy access to the Soli libraries.
In March, Google asked the FCC to allow its short-range interactive motion sensing Soli radar to operate in the 57- to 64-GHz frequency band at power levels consistent with European Telecommunications Standards Institute standards.
Facebook raised concerns with the FCC that the Soli sensors operating in the spectrum band at higher power levels might have issues coexisting with other technologies.
After discussions, Google and Facebook jointly told the FCC in September that they agreed the sensors could operate at higher than currently allowed power levels without interference but at lower levels than previously proposed by Google.