Google I/O 2016: Project Soli could be the next revolution in wearable tech

Project Soli is an attempt to remove physical interaction with a smart device by utilising very tiny radar chips to detect gestures

Google’s ATAP division which has been responsible for some of the company’s most high-end projects like Ara and Jacquard, showcased a new revolutionary technology at Google I/O 2016 that could change the way we interact with our gadgets. Called Project Soli, the concept basically is an attempt to remove physical interaction with a smart device by utilising very tiny radar chips to detect gestures. This project was mentioned at last year's Google I/O, but this time a working device was demoed.

The first gadget to be embedded with these radar chips is an Android Wear smartwatch (LG Watch Urbane) and in a quick demo Google showcased how moving your hand close to the watch wakes up the screen and flicking your fingers lets you scroll through the menu or a message that you have received. This new way of interacting with a device, say a smartwatch, can prove to be more efficient as you get more precise control and also your finger doesn't get in the way like in the case of a touchscreen.

Another interesting use case of the tiny radar chips was in speakers. A working prototype of a JBL speaker showed how bringing your hand closer wakes up the speaker, snapping your fingers plays music, snapping it again stops it and when you move away it shuts itself down.

Google ATAP or Advanced Technologies and Projects, has been the brain behind a number of projects in the past most of which are still under development. We already know about the Ara modular phone project which will have a working consumer model ready by next year. Last year, Google had announced Jacquard in association with Levi’s to create a fabric which will be touch sensitive to let users control certain features of your phone right from your clothes. Google has confirmed a jacket with this technology is “coming soon.” As for Soli, it is at a development stage as well and but Google is confident that it would take about 12 months to actually push off a device with such sophisticated gesture detecting capabilities.

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