'Minority Report' Moves One Step Closer To Reality With FCC Approval Of Google's Project Soli

From Forbes: It’s been 16 years since the theatrical release of Steven Spielberg’s Minority Report, yet the hands-in-the-air UI Tom Cruise used to communicate with his computer is still many people’s vision of the interface of the future. (Voice is better, but that’s another story.) Yesterday, that vision took another step toward reality when the FCC approved Google’s Project Soli.

Soli is a sensing technology that uses radar to detect hand motions of less than a millimeter. The sensing technology is paired with a language of hand gestures that allow an app to translate movement into a command. For example, tapping your thumb and index finger together is translated into a button push, and sliding your thumb back-and-forth across the pad of your index finger turns a dial. Detection using radar is reliable because the technology is capable of detecting tiny movements in three-dimensional space with high precision at very short time intervals. Radar also works without interference through the materials used to build digital devices.

The Soli hardware consists of a sensor and antenna which draws very little power and fits on an 8mm x 10mm chip. The chip is small enough to be used in everything from watches and phones to televisions and cars. Google has created an SDK which gives developers easy access to the Soli libraries.

Google requested FCC approval for a version of Soli that operated in the 57-64 GHz frequency in March. The requested power levels were higher than what the FCC normally allowed but were within the standards set by the European Telecommunications Standards Institute. Google argued that higher power was needed because accuracy for detecting small finger movements was too poor to be functional at the FCC’s lower standard. Facebook complained that operating at these levels might interfere with other technologies and Google’s request was refused. Google and Facebook resolved their differences in September when Google reduced its power request and Facebook agreed the reduced level would not cause interference. The FCC determined that Soli’s use of radar is so benign it can be used safely on airplanes.

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