Google's upcoming phone to support gesture controls

Google shared details on the motion sensing tech onboard the Pixel 4, expected to launch later this year. Photo:

Google confirmed Monday that its upcoming flagship phone, the Pixel 4 will support gesture controls, enabling users to play music, snooze alarms, and silence phone calls, just by waving their hand.

When the Pixel 4 is launched later this year, it will incorporate a brand new way of interacting with the smartphone – one that does away with the need to swipe at the glass screen. The technology behind this gesture control feature is called Soli, which uses a motion sensing radar, similar to the tech used to detect planes. 

Google's Advanced Technology and Projects team has been working on this feature for over five years, says Brandon Barbello, Product Manager, Pixel, in a blog post disclosing the new feature. "We've developed a miniature version located at the top of Pixel 4 that senses small motions around the phone, combining unique software algorithms with the advanced hardware sensor, so it can recognize gestures and detect when you're nearby," he wrote.

The Pixel 4 will also support face unlock, a feature similar to the one on the iPhone – though Google insists that it is engineered differently. Users will not have to pose in front of the device to unlock it, for one. Face unlock will also be used to authenticate payments and apps. 

"As you reach for Pixel 4, Soli proactively turns on the face unlock sensors, recognizing that you may want to unlock your phone. If the face unlock sensors and algorithms recognize you, the phone will open as you pick it up, all in one motion," the blog post says.  

The face unlock will work even when holding the phone upside down, Google says, taking a dig at the iPhone, which is known to have issues when the orientation is in landscape mode. 

The blog post also gives a glimpse at the eight sensors embedded on the Pixel 4 – which includes the Soli radar chip, and infrared cameras that enable the face unlock feature. It appears that one should be able to write in cursive by just waving one's finger at the phone. 

We've already seen glimpses of what the Pixel 4 will look like, with Google posting renders of the back of the phone mid-June, confirming the square camera bump.