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Radar/hand-gesture technology for phones takes a step forward

On December 31, The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) granted a request from Google to allow its Project Soli’s short-range motion sensors to operate at higher power levels than previously allowed, while also allowing their use while onboard aircraft.

The sensors are intended to allow the control of devices through small hand gestures, such as squeezing the tips of a finger and thumb together or sliding the tip of a thumb along the ridge of the index finger. They operate in the 60GHz ISM band and work by emitting the waves in a tight beam. Some of the energy is reflected back towards the radar antenna and Properties of the reflected signal, such as energy, time delay, and frequency shift provide information about the object’s characteristics and dynamics, including size, shape, orientation, material, distance, and velocity.

Project Soli is part of Google’s Advanced Technology and Projects group (ATAP) and the project was first announced back in 2015.

The FCC found that the sensors when operating under the specified conditions “pose minimal potential of causing harmful interference to other spectrum users and uses of the 57-64 GHz frequency band”. It also stated that granting the waiver request “will serve the public interest by providing for innovative device control features using touchless hand gesture technology” as “The aability to recognise users’ touchless hand gestures to control a device, such as a smartphone, could help people with mobility, speech, or tactile impairments…”

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