Making Moves in the IoT

We’ve experienced hearables, wearables, touchables.  Just sneeze in the wrong way and you might end up changing your alarm.  What’s next?  Smellables?   I’m happy to say I doubt any company is going to be looking down that avenue for their next idea.  What is being looked down though is gesture-enabled devices.  No, you’re Kinect isn’t going to make a comeback.  I’m talking about being able to control your smartwatch without touching a thing or augmenting your virtual reality devices.

Google’s ATAP has spent several years developing Project Soli.

Project Soli is the name of this new technology that’s aiming to change the way we interact with devices on a daily basis.  It uses a miniature radar to detect touchless gestures in a way similar to how bats navigate.  The sensor tracks sub-millimeter motion both accurately and at high speeds.  Through the addition of specific gestures, users will be able to control devices in different ways.

For a simple understanding, it’s quite similar to sign language.  Rather than a single ‘sign’ being a command though, it requires movement.  For instance, to turn the volume up on your smart watch, you might need to pinch your fingers together and move them up.

How does it work?

Project Soli works by emitting electromagnetic waves in a broad beam.  Objects within range will scatter the energy and reflect a portion of it back towards the radar.  Every movement of the fingers is tracked backwards through the high-quality and diversified information capturing.


What can Project Soli be used for?

Any device within reach, really.  Soli isn’t a huge machine or a complex sensor, it’s a chip small enough to fit into a watch which uses only a small amount of energy.  It’s not affected by light and even works through most materials, so the sky’s the limit so to speak.  It can be used in everything from watches to cars to most other IoT devices.

For developers of IoT devices, this is one of the first technologies that is almost designed to work together.

Soli is expected to start shipping later this year and is already accepting a small number of companies to develop.  Levi’s is just one of those companies.  Their plan? To stitch the chips into their clothes for Project Jacquard, a unique endeavor intended to make clothes themselves into a type of smart-device.

Whether gestures are going to be the next big thing or the next big flop remains to be seen.  As a lover of all things tech, I am certainly going to be keeping a close eye on Soli .


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