Google was recently awarded a patent by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) covering its invention of an air-, motion- and radar-based gesture control system which could one day find its way into everything from computers, to smartphones, smartwatches, appliances and more, allowing “touchless control” of key features and functions.
Now, Reuters is reporting that the Mountain View, California search-giant this week received Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approval to begin testing this in-air gesture-based control system — dubbed Project Soli — at higher frequencies than the agency previously allowed.
What Are Air-Based Gestures?
In-Air or “Air-based” gesture controls aren’t a brand-new concept. Several major tech companies including Apple and Samsung have both expressed interest in and received intellectual property covering these seemingly futuristic concepts, which could [will more than likely] find their way into future iPhone and Galaxy devices.
Google’s “Soli sensors” will allow users to “press an invisible button” between their thumb and index fingers to control a variety of their device’s features and functions.
The company further noted, via Patently Apple, that “even though these controls are virtual, the interactions feel physical and responsive” since feedback is generated via the sensation of fingers touching.
This technology is clearly unlike anything we’ve seen yet — and yet, it’s clearly the beginning of a new trend that will likely see Google’s technology compete head-on with similar offerings from Apple, Samsung and others.
Still, as the FCC notes in its official paperwork on the Project Soli announcement, its decision to allow Google field-testing privileges will ultimately “serve the public interest by providing for innovative device control features using touchless hand gesture technology” — which is functionally capable of capturing motion on a 3D-field using radar beams [and other seemingly futuristic mechanisms] to enable “touchless control” of a device’s major functions and features.
Will Touchless Control Features Ever Come to iPhone?
While Google’s Project Soli will almost certainly be limited to the company’s own Android, Google Home, Chromebook and other authorized third-party partner products, the good news for Apple fans is that the iPhone-maker is working on a similar system too.
Unfortunately, we don’t know much about the scope or nature of Apple’s gesture-based control systems just yet, but they have been outlined in some of the company’s previous patents — so at least we have a rough idea of what to expect, if and when the iPhone-maker goes live with them.