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Google’s Motion-Control ‘Soli’ Project Will Change How We Use Technology

[DIGEST, June 4, 2015, Business Insider, Mashable] A recent Business Insider report discusses Google’s new innovation: Project Soli. The company showed off new technology that lets users move their fingers in the air to control objects in the virtual world. This technology uses radar waves to detect precise finger movements or finger “micromotions.” Soli provides an enticing example of a powerful motion controller that could change how we interact with the Internet of Things.

touchwatch
(Photo Credit: @diegoiag via Twitter)

According to Mashable, Project Soli is a small, gesture-recognizing, radar-enabled sensor that will provide a way for people to interact with smart watches and other wearable technology without touching the displays. The experimental project was introduced by ATAP, Google’s Advanced Technology and Projects group. A sensor tracks the movements of your hands, which then control the input into a device.  Google’s new sensor was foreshadowed in the sci-fi thriller Minority Report, where characters manipulated virtual objects by gracefully moving their hands or fingers through the air.

Google unveiled an early prototype of the Soli technology with impressive results. The company showed how precise fine-motor skills, like pinching the thumb and index finger or rubbing them together at different speeds, can control a vast array of devices without actually touching anything. During the demo, the project founder, Ivan Poupyrev, kicked a virtual soccer ball by flicking at the screen. He then changed the hours on a clock by turning a virtual dial with his fingers, and then was able to change the minute hand by raising his hands further away from the screen.

After almost a year of work on the project, Google says that they have now shrunk the Soli technology into a microchip the size of a fingernail. They are hoping that this tiny microchip can be integrated into many different electronic devices, such as smart watches. The leader of Google’s ATAP lab, Regina Dugan, believes that as smart watches grow in popularity and their screens become smaller, it will be increasingly difficult to click on different features and options, leaving an opening for products like Soli.

Project Soli could play an important role with virtual reality, particularly the way people interact with digital objects in virtual worlds. Facebook, which already owns the virtual reality headset device Oculus, already has focused on the importance of this type of “virtual touch” technology.

Google has not stated if it was planning to manufacture the microchips for the Soli technology itself or if it views the technology more as a basic standard that all companies will use for products moving forward into the future.

To understand more of how the Soli technology works, check out this video:

If scientific innovation fascinates you, then this may be for you: Scientific Breakthrough Could Change How We Use Energy.

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