We told you yesterday that Google’s ATAP team is working on a couple new projects dubbed Soli and Jacquard, and today the group of self-proclaimed “pirates” came out to officially announce (and demo) them both on stage at their much-anticipated Google I/O session. They’re both about reimagining how we interact with technology, but both projects attempt to do so in different ways…
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With the advent of wearables, it would make sense that Google is investigating better methods of interacting with our smaller-screen devices. While touch input is great for smartphones, there are a lot of reasons why this might not be the best for a wearable, like a smartwatch for instance.
Project Soli is an attempt building hardware that can give you a method of controlling your device without touching it. Whether you’re using a watch, a phone, or a tablet, Soli can theoretically differentiate between very fine motions in the hand gestures it can detect. It uses a tiny radio sensor—that the company showed off for the first time today—and ATAP says that it’s the world’s first radio that’s small enough to fit inside a wearable.
Google gave us a demo of Soli at their ATAP event on Friday morning, showing the device capable of detecting swiping motion, wiggling fingers, the distance your hand is from the sensor, and more. As you can see above, Soli attempts—and, based on the demo we witnessed, succeeds—to detect hand motion that could be used as input the same way a capacitive touch screen would. It doesn’t have any practical use in devices today (which makes sense considering the hardware doesn’t exist yet), but it’s exciting to see the potential in the technology nonetheless.
Google says that it plans to push the first test boards and SDKs to developers soon (although with a project like this there’s never an exact timeline), so it shouldn’t be long before we start to see Soli in some real devices (or at least prototypes).
Similar to Project Soli, ATAP’s Project Jacquard aims to reimagine how we interact with our devices. But rather than detecting precise hand motions in open space using Radar technology, Jacquard is more about weaving a very high-tech capacitive touch screen into the very low-tech fabrics that we wear on our bodies every day. It’s a new take on what “wearable” means, putting a capacitive touch sensor directly within Google’s Jacquard touch sensing textile.
The small touchable sections of fabric can theoretically be placed anywhere on a piece of clothing. Specially during today’s event, though, Google ATAP’s Ivan Poupyrev was wearing a jacket that had a touchable section on its sleeve, and demoed the technology live on stage. He showed in a video how the jacket was made and how the fabric could detect a the touch of a finger and do things like answer phone calls.
Perhaps most interestingly, Google ATAP says that it has partnered with another company that calls San Francisco its home: Levi’s. So while both of these projects may seem really great in theory, Google ATAP is doing more to make sure they become reality. Google says it also considers Jacquard as a fabric in and of itself. So if/when Levi’s ever sells a pair of clothing with Jacquard built in, you might see “20% Project Jacquard” located on your shirt’s tag.
Check out Google’s videos below: