The Pixel 4’s coolest new feature means you don’t have to touch it

When Apple introduced Face ID on the iPhone X in 2017, many other companies were quick to launch their own version of the facial-recognition technology. Now, however, it looks like Google will include not only facial recognition on the Pixel 4, but will take it a step further by including gesture-based controls, essentially meaning that you can use the phone without even touching it.

Google showed off the tech in a new video posted to Twitter, and in a blog post in which a user can be seen unlocking the phone, then waving her hand to skip through songs on a playlist. This kind of tech could come in handy when your hands are dirty and you don’t want to touch your phone.

According to the blog post, the tech is based on Project Soli, Google’s research into radar-based gesture controls. Project Soli tech hasn’t yet been included on any phones or smart devices, so the Pixel 4 could end up being the first. Because it’s based on Project Soli, it could be leaps and bounds better than previous gesture-based controls we’ve seen, such as on the LG G8 ThinQ, which had hand-motion gestures that many argued rarely worked and didn’t really add to the experience of using the phone.

Google has reportedly been working hard on its facial-recognition tech. According to a report from Android Police, Google employees have been giving $5 gift certificates to people in exchange for a facial scan. The idea here is to make sure that the facial-recognition tech can work with a diverse range of faces.

google pixel 4 gesture controls teaser sensor array
Google

One of the advantages of Project Soli is that it can sense when you’re reaching for the device, proactively turning on the facial-recognition tech, and cutting seconds off the unlocking process.

Google has slowly been teasing details of the Pixel 4 before its expected launch in October. The company tweeted an image of the back of the phone in June, confirming leaks showing a glass back and square camera bump.

The blog post also shows some aspects of the design — in the post, Google shows the sensors needed for Project Soli, which take up much of the forehead of the device. Sensors include the Soli radar chip, as well as infrared cameras and dot projectors for facial recognition. Google says that the facial-recognition technology is processed on the device, making for a more secure experience.

The design of the Pixel 4 is in stark contrast to the Pixel 3 XL, which had a large notch that wasn’t very well-received because of its size.

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