Google and the quest for making daily life more convenient

Google’s Advanced Technology and Progress (ATAP) team is working on a couple of revolutionary inventions which have the potential to change our daily life in the future. The one that caught my eye, was the so-called project Soli, announced on the yearly I/O ATAP event in 2015. The Soli project team is working on a chip with an interaction sensor, which uses radar technology. Radar is already used for decades in order to locate large objects such as airplanes and ships, but now Google wants to take the adaptability of radar technology to a micro perspective.

The people behind Project Soli wanted to create a new way in how we can control the wearables we use. Take a smartwatch for instance. It can be arduous to perfectly operate the device by tapping the tiny screen using your fingers. Users that expected to type messages on their smartwatch are even more bereft of their illusions. In its own words, the Project Soli team wants ‘to break the tension between the ever-shrinking screen sizes used in wearables, as well as other digital devices, and our ability to interact with them’ (Google, 2015).

The project team invented a tiny sensor that fits into a chip which makes use of real-time subtle hand movements without physical contact as input. The chip is about the size of a SD-card. This information provided by human hand movements, is subsequently transferred in a way that it is possible to control a small device, such as a smartwatch. Hence, Soli can change the way we communicate with these devices. The need to touch a device to operate it can become superfluous with this technology. Here is an impression:

Cameras can already capture human movements for a great amount of time. Probably most of you remember the EyeToy for PlayStation 2. This was one of the first examples for capturing and translating human movements onto a screen. Nevertheless, the radar technology used in project Soli has several advantages. At first, incorporating this technique into devices takes less space, since it doesn’t need any hardware to function (in contrast to a camera). The other benefit of this technique is that it is much more accurate than the current movement sensors used in camera’s. It is even possible to track sub-millimetre motions at high speed. Besides, the technology can even identify movements in the dark environments, which is not the case for cameras.

Although it’s still in the development phase, I can already imagine this technology could also be used for a dozen of other devices. The frustrating situation of searching for the TV remote control will become history and adjusting the temperature in your room will be possible with just a small turn on an imaginary rotary knob. What other ways of using this technology can you think of?



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