Soli is a Google’s Project that enable users to interact with digital devices without touching them. Nothing really new, except for the hardware technology that concentrates everything in one small “piece of sand” on the electronic device board.
Using the same “approach” that is already used by dolphins, whales and bats, the Google researchers created a single chip that can identify and translate simple gestures in effective commands even through other materials.
The commands that they sampled in the video are:
- scrolling (volume settings, clock settings etc)
- pushing a button
- moving a surface
In the video they talk about the opportunity to enable “hands over the air” (HOTA) commands both on the modern digital devices and on classic electronic devices like radios. Even if the idea of a “Radar UI” is really suggestive, I doubt that Soli could manage complex inputs like Leap Motion and Kinect do. I think indeed that the biggest value of Soli is to add easily some HOTA commands to all the electronic/digital devices that we already own and use.
I bet that if they’ll finish the product they will introduce some HOTA functions for all the Android smartphones and tablets like turning the display on/off using an hand’s movement from right to the left and viceversa. This is what we can really call “differentiation”!
Beside of this, I think that the most interesting and lucrative market will not be the consumer digital industry where the HOTA functions could be read more like a cool feature than real innovation. It’s like opening the car boot using your feet. It’s useful but not really indispensable. Moreover in the consumer digital devices industry, Google will have to standardize and reduce the commands to some basics functions like turning on/of, mode switching, scrolling, pushing something, zooming and a few more. Consumers today want to handle their devices or simply don’t need to command them from distance.
I think instead that the most interesting and lucrative markets for Soli will be the professional sectors for medical and industrial machineries, automotive, IoT and demotic, toys and entertainment.
Imagine if all the Android car infotainment systems could activate some basic functions simply moving your fingers while your hands remain on the steering.
Imagine a MotoGP rider that setups his motorcycle using the fingers of his left hand.
Imagine an industrial or a medical machinery that can enable a lot of functions with even complex gestures that users can do wearing whatever they want.
Imagine a Disneyland’s robot that interacts in real-time with the visitors.
If the Soli’s engineers will find the way to produce a cheap, easy to embed and low voltage chip, they will upgrade the physical interaction pattern with some of our digital/electronic devices. But they will have the more interesting opportunity to innovate and open new scenarios for professional electronic machineries.
Last but not least, Soli will revolutionize even the industrial designers approach. They will indeed have the opportunity to remove some physical buttons or reproducing the gestures on the objects shapes. That’s amazing!
(Edit: another interesting market for Soli is the maker’s world. Who already work with Arduino, Rasperry Pi and other similar boards, will go crazy having a sensor like the Soli one on his board. But the question is: will Soli be released in open-source con makers/developers use?