August 6, 2019
Google plans to introduce its next smartphone, the Pixel 4, with new gesture technology. The company, betting that gestures will be the “next big thing” after touchscreens, dubbed the controls “Motion Sense,” and unveiled a video showing controls such as blinking and hand waving. When Pixel 4 is debuted in October, its Motion Sense will turn off alarms, skip songs, and silence phone calls. Gesture technology is expected to be a dramatic change in how we interface not just with phones, but many other electronic devices.
Wired reports that, “gesture technology will further turn our devices into extensions of ourselves” and that Google’s Pixel 4 gesture capability is “merely a glimpse of a touchless future.”
Five years ago, at Google’s Advanced Technology and Projects division (Google ATAP), technical lead Ivan Poupyrev founded Project Soli, a Google “skunkworks lab” aimed at improving gesture controls via miniaturized radar technology. The lab created the Soli chip “smaller than the size of a nickel and studded with sensors” that emits “electromagnetic waves that pick up on motion, then translate it into data.”
According to Google, “the technology works better than 3D cameras to capture fine motions, like pinching together two fingers to ‘press’ a button on the screen.” The FCC approved the chip in January, saying it will “serve the public interest by providing for innovative device control features using touchless hand gesture technology.”
Touchless interfaces aren’t new, having “liberated gamers from joysticks, offered more flexibility in virtual reality, and allowed people to beckon their drones, no remote control needed.” But, says Wired, “Google’s vision goes beyond just consumer convenience.” Pixel product manager Brandon Barbello reports that Motion Sense’s first capabilities are “just the start,” as Poupyrev works on smart fabrics that allow the user to “answer a phone call with a swipe of the sleeve.”
The Soli chip could also be used for smart cars and VR headsets. “If Google gets it right,” says Wired, “the Pixel 4 … will be the start of a new kind of interaction with our devices — one that, like the first touchscreens, feels less like technology and more like magic.”