Google Just Got U.S. Approval for Radar Tech That Could Kill Touchscreens

Small screen? No problem.

Google is one step closer to replacing the touchscreens on its hardware with a motion-sensing system. The company’s Soli Project venture wants to embed a tiny radar array into a quarter-sized chip that could go into smartphones, TVs, wearables, computers, vehicles, and even aircraft. If the tests go well, it could open the door to a whole new level of interactivity.

On Monday, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission granted the company permission to operate its sensors at a higher power than was previously permitted. This allows Google to begin testing these new radar-enabled motion sensors in real-time and at longer range.

The idea is that, eventually, users will be able to use a wide range of motions to interact with their devices, as opposed to simply pressing buttons on a screen. The possibilities are endless: Picture raising the volume of your Google Home by simply rubbing your fingers together, for example, or switching through videos on their Chromecast with a snap.

“We further find that grant of the waiver will serve the public interest by providing for innovative device control features using touchless hand gesture technology,” the FCC wrote in a statement.

google project soli gestures

Google’s Wear OS smartwatches already come with a gesture control feature. However, in part because of the FCC-imposed limits on radar tech, these devices suffered from accuracy issues and were limited to few basic gestures. But the FCC’s recent announcement could solve these problems, at least from a regulatory standpoint.

The agency has allowed Google to up their radar strength to a level that would enable better functionality, while not disturbing existing tech. Now it’s up to the company to begin incorporating Soli Project innovations into its hardware releases.

google project soli chip
The Soli chip incorporates the entire sensor and antenna array into an ultra-compact 8mm x 10mm package.

While Google has not stated what devices it plans to retrofit with this radar tech, anything with an annoyingly small touchscreen could stand to benefit. Instead of having to perfectly tap a smartwatch app with your pinky, you could scroll and select from afar.

Google didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.