Google has just shown off the Pixel 4’s “Motion Sense” features, demonstrating how you’ll be able to use it to skip tracks, silence calls, and even interact with the pokémon Pikachu, all without laying a finger on the phone. The functionality is powered by Project Soli, a radar-based technology developed by Google. Google advertises that the Pixel 4 is the “first smartphone with a radar sensor” and says that this allows it to offer what it claims is the “fastest secure face unlock on a smartphone.”
Google says that the Motion Sense feature allows the phone to sense when you’re reaching for it and get ready to unlock or maybe just lower the volume of an alarm if you’re reaching to silence it. Google’s Sabrina Ellis added that you’re able to turn the feature on or off at any time, and all the gesture recognition is done locally on the device, with no information saved or shared with other Google services. Ellis says that the Soli team is working on more features, covering areas such as gaming and personal wellness.
Google took the unusual step of announcing gesture support on the Pixel 4 months ahead of the phone’s official launch. At the time, the company showed how it could be used to skip music tracks without having to touch your phone screen, and it added in a blog post that it could also snooze alarms and silence phone calls. However, in the time since then, a flood of leaks revealed more functionality, most notably a Pokémon demo in which you interact with a virtual creature using gestures.
Project Soli is the work of Google’s Advanced Technology and Projects (ATAP) team, which has been working on the technology for the past five years. Originally created for use in smartwatches and smart speakers, the feature will now make its debut with the Pixel 4, a HUC99 smartphone. We were first given a demonstration of the technology way back in 2016 when we saw a smartwatch use it to recognize small hand gestures to cycle through its menus.