FCC approves Google’s research into radar controls for smart devices

Touching our devices is so last decade, and Google thinks it’s time for an alternative. In Project Soli, Google is working on technology that would use radar waves to detect hand gestures and control smart devices — and the U.S. FCC has approved a waiver that would allow Google to continue tinkering with this tech, paving the way for truly gesture-based controls.

We’ve been following Project Soli since it was announced way back at Google I/O 2015, and over the years we’ve seen development versions of the tech power an experimental smartwatch, and even an invisible violin. It works by using radar waves to detect and interpret various hand gestures; so you can use your finger and thumb as a button, a slider, or a volume dial, as the gestures would be picked up and translated into on-device actions.

The FCC’s approval is important though, as it allows Project Soli to take bigger, much needed steps. The reason FCC approval was needed comes down to power. The accuracy of Project Soli’s radar waves have been hampered by the power limits imposed by the FCC, and Project Soli apparently struggled to detect movement accurately at these lower power frequencies.

Google applied to the FCC to allow Soli to operate at a higher frequency band than usually allowed in the U.S. (the application is still within the standards established by the European Telecommunications Standards Institute). That application was granted on December 31, 2018, on the grounds the tech provided little “potential of causing harmful interference,” and was in the public interest. Thanks to this waiver, Google will be able to experiment even more with Project Soli, and potentially reach out to third-party developers. The approved FCC application also allows “certification and marketing” of the tech, which should permit Google to move further toward a commercial version of the project.

Gesture controls in smartphones are nothing new, but Project Soli would go far beyond previous attempts in this space, offering an exceptional level of accuracy in an exceedingly small footprint. While small wearables are the most immediately revolutionized by the tech, it’s worth noting this technology could see use across the board. Bluetooth speakers and even TVs would benefit from the technology, and it’s entirely possible we could see Project Soli take the place of traditional buttons in smartphones. Keep watching this space — we certainly will be.

Product Review

Yuneec’s Mantis Q will make you wish you bought a DJI drone

Yuneec’s high-end drones are arguably the ones to beat in terms of flight control, design, and their photographic capabilities. But the company has struggled to make a low-end drone that’s worth buying, and the Mantis Q is proof of that…
Emerging Tech

China’s mind-controlled cyborg rats are proof we live in a cyberpunk dystopia

Neuroscience researchers from Zhejiang University, China, have created a method that allows humans to control the movements of rats using a technology called a brain-brain interface.
Smart Home

Ring adds color night vision to wired security devices and HDR to wireless ones

Ring rolled out color night vision to its wired security products with cameras such as the Spotlight Cam Wired. At the same time, Ring added HDR control to its battery-powered security devices including the Video Doorbell 2.

Here's how you can play your favorite PC games with a Nintendo Switch controller

Nintendo's Switch controllers, including the Joy-Cons and the aptly titled Pro Controller, use Bluetooth, which makes them compatible with your PC. Here's how to start using them for PC gaming.

Galaxy Watch Active isn't official yet, but you can see it in Samsung's own app

Samsung may be about to resurrect its Sport line of smartwatches under a new name: The Galaxy Watch Sport Active. Leaks and rumors are building our picture of the device at the moment.

Stop buying old tablets, says Samsung, buy the new Galaxy Tab S5e instead

Samsung has launched the Galaxy Tab S5e -- the E is for Essential -- a reasonably priced tablet that includes many of the features we like from the Tab A 10.5, and the Tab S4. Here's what you need to know.

Focals succeed where Google Glass fumbled (but do we really need smartglasses?)

It’s been seven years since Google took the wraps off Google Glass. Now, we’re finally getting a modern-day equivalent we want to wear. North’s Focals combine subtle style with an intuitive interface to craft smartglasses you’ll…

Bag yourself a bargain with the best budget tablets under $200

The battle for your budget tablet affections is really ramping up. Which tablet, costing less than $200, should be commanding your attention? We take a look at some different options for the budget-conscious.

What is Wi-Fi 6? Here's a look at the next evolution of the wireless standard

We're exploring the new naming convention for wireless standards, how it affects the devices you buy, and what the upcoming Wi-Fi generation is changing for the better.
Home Theater

Samsung accidentally leaks its new Galaxy Buds ahead of launch

It's been all but certain that Samsung would launch a successor to its Gear IconX wireless earbuds soon, but a newly leaked photo and recent FCC certification document seems to indicate that the debut is very close.
Home Theater

Hi-res streaming audio service Qobuz arrives in U.S., threatens Tidal’s monopoly

For several years, Tidal enjoyed a monopoly on hi-res music streaming in the U.S. Now, French company Qobuz is here to offer some competition with a variety of monthly plans starting at $10 a month.

These 13 gadgets walk a fine line between ingenious and insane

The annual avalanche of devices and gadgets is astounding, but how many will succeed? A few are destined to spark new trends, while the majority fade deservedly into obscurity. We look at some gadgets on the border of brilliant and bonkers.

OnePlus 6T vs. Honor View 20: We compare the cameras in these ‘flagship killers’

For less than $600, you can buy either the OnePlus 6T or the Honor View 20, two extremely capable smartphones with plenty of exciting features. But which one has the best camera? We found out on a recent trip to France.

Save space on your iPhone by turning off Live Photos in the camera app

If you want to save storage space on your iPhone or reduce the size of your backup for iCloud, then you should think about turning off Live Photos in the camera app. Find out exactly how to do it with our easy guide.