Google’s upcoming Pixel 4 flagship has been confirmed to feature a new chip called Soli, which is described as “motion-sending radar.” It is essentially a miniature version of the technology used to spot planes.
Google says the Soli chip can be used to sense how people move around the phone and use to control it. With the new technology, people will be able to wave their hands to “skip songs, snooze alarms, and silence phone calls, just by waving your hand. Sounds interesting, right?
Ever since Google confirmed the Pixel 4, a lot of hype has been around the futuristic radar chip in the next-generation Pixel phone. But what is Soli radar chip, how does it work and when will products featuring the radar chip will hit retail shelves? We will answer those burning questions and more in this article.
Who is behind Project Soli chip?
Google is behind the Soli radar chipset. The search engine giant first announced Project Soli back in 2015 during its I/O Developer Conference. The radar chip has been actively developed by Google’s Advanced Technology and Projects (ATAP) group. That’s the same group which worked on the now-defunct modular smartphone system Project Ara and Project Tango programs. The Soli chip has been under the development for five years.
What is the Project Soli chip?
The soli chipset uses radars or radio frequency spectrum to track the human hand in real-time. The reason Google is relying on radar is because it has very high positional accuracy, even higher than cameras. The chipset itself measures 8mm x 10mm and features the sensor and the antenna. It’s so tiny that it can be used in any small-sized device, including a smartwatch. The chip consumes less energy and isn’t affected by light conditions.
But to take advantage of the Soli chip in a device like a watch or a phone, Google’s ATAP has developed a language for interacting with devices using hand gestures. Dubbed “Virtual Tool”, these gestures mimic familiar interactions with the physical world. For instance, the chip can accurately sense a button when you tap your thumb and index finger together, or turning a dial by rubbing thumb against index finger.
How does Soli chip work?
The Soli chip works by emitting electromagnetic waves, according to Google’s ATAP. Objects within the beam reflect information back to the radar antenna. Information gathered from the reflected signal like the reflected signal, energy, time delay and frequency shift information, basically give the device information about the interaction. Soli tracks and senses “dynamic gestures expressed by fine motions of the fingers and hand”.
The reason Google is relying on radar because it can accurately track motions, and one can shrink the radar into a tiny chip, which can be placed on a device. With Project Soli, radar is being used to sense all the interactions and track human hand gestures.
Check out Google’s video on Project Soli
Is Soli chip coming to Pixel 4?
The Pixel 4 is the first commercial device to use Google’s Soli chipset. The fourth-generation flagship smartphone, which is due sometime in October, will have Face Unlock and Motion Sense features. The latter feature will allow you to control the phone using Air Gestures. However, Motion Sense will be made available in select countries as it requires regulatory approval.
Google is serious about hands gestures and the Pixel 4 is just the first step. But Google is not the first company to add gesture recognition to phones. Sony and Samsung were the first companies to add gesture recognition on phones. Unfortunately, the gesture control didn’t really catch on. In recent months, LG too incorporated gestures on its flagship G8 flagship. But the phone’s marquee feature was largely ignored.