Google wins US approval for radar-based hand motion sensor

‘Project Soli’ sensor can allow users to press an invisible button or use a virtual dial

Photograph: Yui Mok/PA Wire

Photograph: Yui Mok/PA Wire


Google has won the go-head in the US for a new sensor that uses miniature radar to track the motion of a human hand, allowing for touch gestures without users needing to physically touch a screen.

For example, users could “press” an invisible button between the thumb and index fingers or turn a virtual dial by rubbing a thumb against the index finger.

Google says the sensor can be embedded in wearables, phones, computers and vehicles.

Google got approval for the device, known as Project Soli, from US regulators. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) said in an order late on Monday that it would grant Google a waiver to operate the Soli sensors at higher power levels than currently allowed. The FCC said the sensors can also be operated aboard aircraft.

The FCC said the decision “will serve the public interest by providing for innovative device control features using touchless hand gesture technology”, and the technology could benefit users with mobility or speech impairments.

A Google spokeswoman did not immediately comment on the approval.

In March, Google asked the FCC to allow its short-range interactive motion sensing Soli radar to operate in the 57- to 64-GHz frequency band at power levels consistent with European Telecommunications Standards Institute standards. Facebook raised concerns with the FCC that the Soli sensors operating in the spectrum band at higher power levels might have issues coexisting with other technologies.

After discussions, Google and Facebook jointly told the FCC in September that they agreed the sensors could operate at higher than currently allowed power levels without interference but at lower levels than previously proposed by Google.

Facebook told the FCC in September that it expected a “variety of use cases to develop with respect to new radar devices, including Soli.”

The Soli devices can be operated aboard aircraft but must still comply with Federal Aviation Administration rules governing portable electronic devices. – Reuters