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Google’s Project Soli Granted FCC Waiver

January 2, 2019

The FCC has granted a request by Google for waiver of section 15.255(c)(3)2 of the rules governing short-range interactive motion sensing devices, consistent with the parameters set forth in the Google-Facebook Joint ex parte Filing, to permit the certification and marketing of its Project Soli field disturbance sensor (Soli sensor) to operate at higher power levels than currently allowed. In addition, the FCC waived compliance with the provision of section 15.255(b)(2) of the rules to allow users to operate Google Soli devices while aboard aircraft.

The FCc found that the Soli sensors, when operating under the waiver conditions specified herein, pose minimal potential of causing harmful interference to other spectrum users and uses of the 57-64 GHz frequency band, including for the earth exploration satellite service (EESS) and the radio astronomy service (RAS). 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.

How does it work?

Soli sensor technology works by emitting electromagnetic waves in a broad beam.

Objects within the beam scatter this energy, reflecting some portion back towards the radar antenna. Properties of the reflected signal, such as energy, time delay, and frequency shift capture rich information about the object’s characteristics and dynamics, including size, shape, orientation, material, distance, and velocity.

Radar signal visualization with Baudline

Soli tracks and recognizes dynamic gestures expressed by fine motions of the fingers and hand. In order to accomplish this with a single chip sensor, we developed a novel radar sensing paradigm with tailored hardware, software, and algorithms. Unlike traditional radar sensors, Soli does not require large bandwidth and high spatial resolution; in fact, Soli’s spatial resolution is coarser than the scale of most fine finger gestures. Instead, our fundamental sensing principles rely on motion resolution by extracting subtle changes in the received signal over time. By processing these temporal signal variations, Soli can distinguish complex finger movements and deforming hand shapes within its field.

Soli gesture recognition

The Soli software architecture consists of a generalized gesture recognition pipeline which is hardware agnostic and can work with different types of radar. The pipeline implements several stages of signal abstraction: from the raw radar data to signal transformations, core and abstract machine learning features, detection and tracking, gesture probabilities, and finally UI tools to interpret gesture controls.

The Soli SDK enables developers to easily access and build upon our gesture recognition pipeline. The Soli libraries extract real-time signals from radar hardware, outputting signal transformations, high precision position and motion data, and gesture labels and parameters at frame rates from 100 to 10,000 frames per second.

Sensor data showing four gestures performed by five users

Soli hardware prototypes July 2014 - May 2015

The Soli sensor is a fully integrated, low-power radar operating in the 60-GHz ISM band. In our journey toward this form factor, we rapidly iterated through several hardware prototypes, beginning with a large bench-top unit built from off-the-shelf components -- including multiple cooling fans. Over the course of 10 months, we redesigned and rebuilt the entire radar system into a single solid-state component that can be easily integrated into small, mobile consumer devices and produced at scale.

Soli hardware prototypes July 2014 - May 2015

The custom-built Soli chip greatly reduces radar system design complexity and power consumption compared to our initial prototypes. We developed two modulation architectures: a Frequency Modulated Continuous Wave (FMCW) radar and a Direct-Sequence Spread Spectrum (DSSS) radar. Both chips integrate the entire radar system into the package, including multiple beamforming antennas that enable 3D tracking and imaging with no moving parts.

What are the potential applications of Soli?

The Soli chip can be embedded in wearables, phones, computers, cars and IoT devices in our environment.

Soli has no moving parts, it fits onto a chip and consumes little energy. It is not affected by light conditions and it works through most materials. Just imagine the possibilities...

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