Google will start shipping development kits for its Project Soli wireless gesture recognition technology later this year.
Project Soli involves a millimeter-wave radar chip that can detect “very fine” gestures with fingers and hands. It can then be used for playing games using hand gestures on mobile devices, computers, and electronics.
The technology has the potential to get rid of controllers and input devices. Its biggest impact could be in virtual and augmented reality. When using VR headsets, users now need to hold controllers, but Project Soli could allow hand gesture movement to define how a user roams a virtual world.
The chip is so tiny that Google has put it in devices as small as smartwatches. It was jointly developed by Google with Infineon, which has said the technology will be jointly marketed by both companies later this year.
An announcement about the development kit was made at the recent Game Developer Conference.
The goal for the developer kit is to discover new uses for the technology. Initially, Google is targeting Project Soli at game control using hand gestures. A demo showed a user flicking fingers on a device containing the Project Soli chip, and the finger movement controlled a character running on a screen. The quicker the fingers flicked, the faster the character ran. By moving the hand up or down, the character could jump over trees.
One group at the University of St. Andrews in the U.K. used the technology to recognize materials based on weight and other characteristics. For example, it could detect copper, plastic, and other materials.
Project Soli could be transformative technology and be used in applications beyond gaming, Aaron Cammarata, technical project lead at the Google Advanced Technology and Projects group (ATAP), said in a video posted on YouTube.
The radar technology is highly reliable, and the response is quick because it uses millimeter-wave technology.
Google ATAP is leading the project and works on technology that is then used in commercial products. One of its big flops was Project Ara, a modular smartphone that was scrapped by Google. ATAP also developed Tango, an augmented reality platform that is now part of Lenovo’s Phab 2 Pro smartphone.
Later this year, Levi’s will ship clothes with touch and gesture interactivity stitched into the fabric, and that functionality was developed as part of Google ATAP’s Project Jacquard.