Skip to main content

Google and LG built a gesture-controlled smartwatch using Project Soli

soli smartwatch speaker header
Image used with permission by copyright holder
Google’s quietly making a ton of progress on one of its coolest technologies to date, which will change how we interact with our devices. The technology is called Soli, and it’s basically a tiny radar that can detect small hand gestures for controlling smart clothing, smartwatches, and other devices.

Soli is built by Google’s ATAP division, which is responsible for bringing some of its more out-there technology to the real world. Soli was first shown off at Google I/O last year, and since then, Google has worked with around 60 developers, shipping them dev kits to build object recognition, wearables, and so on. Perhaps the most interesting, however, was the creation of a smartwatch and speaker with Soli built-in.

Of course, the chip shown off last year wouldn’t have fit inside a normal smartwatch, so the team redesigned it. Like really redesigned it. The new chip reduces power consumption by a hefty 22 times, now sitting at 0.054 W. Radar also takes a lot of computer power — the new version, however, still runs 18,000 frames per second, and is a whopping 256 times more efficient.

soli-smartwatch
Image used with permission by copyright holder

So what does that mean for the smartwatch? You can control it without even touching it. It uses radar to track gesture controls. For example, in the demo of a watch that was built in partnership with LG, we saw that if you move your hand closer and further away from the device, it can scroll through messages. With a little flick of your fingers, you can select a message to read in full. According to the team, the sensor can detect movement up to an impressive 15 meters away.

If that seems like quite a generous distance for smartwatch use, the sensor can of course be utilized in other devices. Case in point, another interesting demo showed Soli being used as a speaker, built by Harman’s JBL, which was shown cycling through tracks as the user gestured from across the stage.

soli-speaker
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Unfortunately it’s not yet known when we’ll see Soli products for consumers, however ATAP will be sending out a new developer kit next year. In the meantime check out the video below to see some of the other things Soli can do.

Project Soli: Alpha Developers Showcase

Editors' Recommendations

Christian de Looper
Christian’s interest in technology began as a child in Australia, when he stumbled upon a computer at a garage sale that he…
How to navigate with the AR mode in Google Maps to find your way
google pixel 3a review xl hands on 17

Whether you live in a big city or are just visiting, finding a specific location can be a little difficult. It can be easy to get turned around right when you get off the subway or train, for example, and the compass in the maps app you're using may not offer much help. Google's solution is an integrated augmented reality (AR) mode for walking navigation, to help point the way.

The company first announced the feature at Google I/O 2018, and it's finally making its way to the Maps app. AR Mode was initially exclusive to Google's Pixel phones -- including the Pixel 3a -- but the company has now made it available for any Android phone that supports ARCore and any iPhone that supports ARKit. It's only available for use outdoors and in areas with recently published Street View images; AR Mode is not available in India; and because the camera is needed to recognize buildings, it will not work in low-light environments. The feature is still in beta.

Read more
JBL’s Google Assistant-powered Link Bar now available for purchase

When the Google Home Max debuted in 2017, we asked Google if the smart speaker would be compatible with TVs as a soundbar. The answer was no, but the company is finally placing some emphasis on Google Assistant-powered soundbars. The first product in this category is JBL's Link Bar. It's an Android TV streaming box, soundbar, and smart speaker all in one. Though it debuted in 2018, it's only now -- as of July 11, 2019 -- available for purchase, for $400. We'll hopefully get our hands on a review model soon, but in the meantime, here's what we learned after spending some time checking it out at Google I/O 2018.

Soundbars are slim and don't take much space, and they're a relatively affordable way of improving the audio capabilities of your TV. The JBL Link Bar looks like any other soundbar: It's sleek and its presence is subtle, with physical controls for volume on the top, including a mute switch. What makes it different is that it not only has Google Assistant smarts, but it's also powered by Android TV.

Read more
You can now use an Android phone to log in to Google on an iOS device
google android phone physical security key account

Google is making it a little easier to sign into your Google apps and services on an iOS device. The company is taking advantage of the new security key feature in Android to allow people to use their Android phone to log in to Google services on iOS.

The new feature works through Google's Smart Lock app, which you need to have installed on your iPad or iPhone to make the Android security key feature work. You also need two-step verification enabled, and if both of those criteria are met, you will be able to hold down the volume key on your phone to sign in to your services.

Read more