Google’s Project Soli has no eyes but can see everything around it

Google’s Project Soli might be the next big thing. It has the ability to replace every single gesture input device that we use daily. And the reason is because of its simplicity and reliability in its product.In a nutshell its a piece of device that can see everything around it not literally, though. It can see everything around it in the sense that it can record/sense every gesture we make accurately and initiates a certain task that is preprogrammed into it.

Google's Project Soli

It can replace every other gesture device. Because in gestured devices like camera or IR sensor, the user needs to be constantly present in the field of its view. But Project Soli uses miniature radar to detect user commands. And these commands are intercepted at any angle and at any place. Although they were some theories that claimed gesture recognition could be done using EM waves, But no one implemented it in the real world. Ivan Poupyrev is the guy behind this Project Soli.

They are currently testing this model on various platforms. They already showed a demo on a smart watch and on JBL speaker which are activated and controlled by our hand motions. Check this video if you need more information on it Google IO 2016.

How it Works:

In this section, all the working part is explained at a basic level. Like how does it sense, what type of technology it uses and some basic electronic stuff.

1. Type of Technology employed:

  • It uses RADAR as its core technology.
  • Radar is an object detection device. It uses Electromagnetic Waves to detect enemy aircraft.
  • It also determines other parameters like angle, velocity, and range of the object.

Basically, it works like our human eye. We see things around us with the reflection of light from the objects to our eyes. So, when light rays hit on any object they get reflected every direction and when our eye intercepts those light rays we can see the object. Light is an Electromagnetic Wave.


Radar uses the same principle.It employs radio waves instead of Light waves and can sense every single object in the vicinity of it. There will a radio wave source which transmits radio waves at a certain frequency. When these radio waves are intercepted by any objects they get reflected every direction. There will be one such way which travels back to the source. Then it applies some mathematical relations on the reflected way.

2.Radar to Gesture

In the above section, you came to know how radar works. Here you will understand how this technology is used as a sensing device in Google’s Project Soli. 

Project Soli uses a small radar unit. It continuously emits radio waves and detects any moving objects. But in this case, the moving objects are our fingers or hand movements. Then it records our hand movements and assigns certain tasks like playing a song, selecting a file from any computing devices.

To make it simple Project Soli uses Virtual Tools. These are tools that mimic physical tools like a push button, or a slider etc. Below figure show some of the basic Virtual Tools. So, when we mimic those actions using our finger movements radar unit senses the variations and initiates the task.

3.Features of Project Soli

  • It can capture motions of fingers at a phenomenal rate of 10,000 frames per second. It’s huge when compared to other gesture devices like the camera which has only a few frames per second.
  • It consumes low power typically around 0.54watts.
  • Due to its Electromagnetic nature, it can be transmitted through polycarbonate materials.
  • Unlike camera and other types of sensors, it doesn’t require gadgets to carry.
  • It is insensitive to light.

Due to its small size, it can be embedded into devices like mobiles, music players, Televisions and much more embedded devices.



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