Wearables have been the in thing in recent years. Smartwatches have become quite ubiquitous. We have been witness to a plethora of wearable devices coming from the likes of Apple, Samsung and Motorola to name a few.
But, the basic problem that the users face while communicating with those smart watches is the way you would control them. With the smaller screens and the keys, the users are put to a great deal of discomfort while using it. That is exactly what has prompted Google to come up with a new project – Google Project Soli – that looks to change the way you would interact with a smart watch or any device for that matter.
What Is Google Project Soli?
Google Soli is an ATAP – Advanced Technologies And Projects – plan that aims at simplifying the way you can control your wearable device. It envisages the usage of sensors within the wearable devices. These sensors will make use of the radar and understand your gestures. As Ivan Poupyrev, Technical Program Lead at Google’s ATAP says, “Soli is a purpose-built interaction sensor that uses radar for motion tracking of the human hand”.
Project Soli is essentially a radar-based wearable that can practically be fitted into any device. Google had hinted at the project during the I/O 2015, but we could not hear anything else whole through that year. Now, the project appears to have evolved further and it is evident with the fact that special attention has been paid to it at Google I/O 2016.
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How does it work?
Project Soli is a small radar system that can be fitted into a smartwatch. It is actually a gesture based system that can identify the movements you make, and use them to control your smart watch. The new Soli chip is so compact that it fits in the sensors and antennas in a small package that measures around 8 x 10 mm! Isn’t that quite awesome?
The radar system picks up the signals as soon as you make them. This real-time reading makes it the most reliable way to control your wearable in an easiest possible manner. The Soli chip is designed to detect a huge number of gestures and the list includes swipes, crossed fingers and fists. The technology has been claimed to be ultra sensitive to the movements. As per the statement made by ATAP, it can detect “Micro Movements”.
Project Soli is a plan that works towards a touchless interaction with your devices. The radar within the chip emits the continuous beam of electromagnetic waves. The emission of these waves is in a considerably broader area. Whenever your finger or fist comes in the range, it scatters the beam and the sensor detects it. Based on the programming within the system, it then performs the requisite task depending on your gesture.
The development over the years
The project was first unveiled at Google I/O 2015. Google showcased its initial version in 2015 event without much fanfare, but nevertheless, it did catch the imagination of the tech fraternity. The project did have a few challenges that the developers had to work through.
To begin with, the chip had to be small enough to be able to be fitted into another device that is smaller in size. Attention had to be paid to the energy efficiency. If the chip, while being smart enough to detect signals effortlessly, needed to be better equipped to be efficient power manager.
Google kept working on the concept and kept improving it on. It was indeed a high level, project for ATAP and it kept redesigning the chip to make it smaller and less power hungry. The result was Soli Chip 2.0 which was showcased at Google I/O 2016. The chip now sees a 22 times reduction in power consumption. There is also a considerable reduction in the need for the computational power.
The future of Project Soli
The ATAP team that heads the Project Soli has broader plans. They do not seem to be limited to smart watches and other such wearables. If the words by Poupyrev have any indication to make in this context, “If you can put something in a smartwatch, you can put it anywhere,” – those speak for themselves.
Soli can be embedded within a huge list of devices. The possible list of devices that can incorporate the Soli chip include phones, computers and other wearables. The technology is feasible on cars and other IoT (Internet of Things) devices as well. For a technology that has a farsightedness like Soli, the sky is the only limit.
The technology is still in its nascent stage and it can be a little too early to make any huge expectations from it. We may need to wait for the commercial launch of the product. But, we are sure it will be a definite replacement for voice commands soon.
The ATAP team has been planning to put the whole project up for grabs for the third party companies for development. That should speak for the seriousness with which Google has been into the concept. We can definitely hope for a commercial launch quite soon.
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Well, the technology behind Project Soli has far reaching possibilities. Though it has been planned for the smart watches, it is not only for smart watches, or other wearables. It does carry the potential to improve the way we work with everything we use in our daily routine. Be it, computers, cars, or practically anything can be controlled through gestures. Though it may appear to be a scene from a science fiction movie, the day is not far to realise that possibility. We would love to have our readers come up with their views on the newest technology that promises a better interaction with the gadgets we use almost every day. Share your experiences on the concept and we would be happy to have a positive interaction with you.