Google moves closer to creating sensors for controlling devices with hand gestures
Nearly two decades after its release, “Minority Report” still seems to be as prescient as the film’s eerie crime-fighting “precogs,” offering a clarifying vision of the future that continues to manifest in the real world.
Though it debuted way back in 2002, the film highlighted technologies such as driverless cars, hyper-targeted advertising and robotic insects — all of which exist in 2019. Now, it appears Steven Spielberg’s cinematic premonition may have included another technology that is potentially one step closer to reality: gesture-controlled sensing technology.
Translated to English: technology that would allow us to control televisions, smartphones and computers without actually touching them, not unlike Tom Cruise’s character, chief John Anderton, manipulating floating digital images like a conductor directing an orchestra (though he uses gloves instead of a baton).
For years, Google’s Advanced Technology and Projects (ATAP) lab has been seeking to create motion sensors that might be used in similar technology, an effort the company dubbed “Project Soli.”
This week, the Federal Communications Commission approved a Google request to “operate the Soli sensors at higher power levels than currently allowed,” according to Reuters, which first reported the change in policy.
In that ruling, the FCC said the change would “serve the public interest by providing for innovative device control features using touchless hand gesture technology.” The FCC also said users can operate “Google Soli devices” aboard aircraft — but they remain “subject to FAA regulations on portable electronic devices.”
Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the FCC decision and information about how the company plans to use the technology in the future.
Here’s one idea, courtesy of Inverse: “Instead of having to perfectly tap a smartwatch app with your pinkie, you could scroll and select from afar.”
On its website, Project Soli’s tagline is: “Your hands are the only interface you’ll need.”
In a video on the site posted in 2015, Ivan Poupyrev, Project Soli’s founder, marvels at the human hand, noting that it is extremely precise and fast.
“How can we take this incredible capability,” he asks, “and apply it to the virtual world?”
Poupyrev says the project is using radar hardware — traditionally used to track large objects like airplanes and satellites — to track human hand “twitches” and then turning it into a gesture sensor that uses those motions to interact with various devices via a microchip.
“The Soli chip can be embedded in wearables, phones, computers, cars and IoT devices in our environment,” the website claims. “Soli has no moving parts, it fits onto a chip and consumes little energy. It is not affected by light conditions and it works through most materials.”