Google's new Pixel 4 is the first time that radar is displayed on a mobile phone. On the Pixel 4, it drives a motion sensor that Google uses to control a number of functions, including gestures to control speakerphone and to quickly unlock the face (but there is a big caveat here). Google aptly calls the sensor Motion Sense.
Phone manufacturers have been experimenting with motion control for years, using the camera sensor to detect where you are and to interpret what you want to do by hand with a gallery and switch tracks in a music app. Some, such as the LG G8 have even invented sophisticated movements to launch certain apps by sticking their fingers in the beak of a bird, or adjust the sound by mimicking a dial.
The missing ingredient in these clunky past tests is, according to Google, the radar the company hopes will make sense quickly and conveniently if you know where you are.
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Radar is not what makes unlocking faces work. Google Motion Sense detects when you reach for Pixel 4, illuminates the screen, and keeps your face within reach and doing the rest. But that's all that the radar-powered chip does inside. The sensor, which Google solos call, does not actually scan your mug to make sure that you really are you.
Google uses an infrared camera to project dots onto your face, just like Apple uses it on the iPhone [$ 699 on Amazon] for Face ID. We are not sure how many dots are projected onto your face (we asked), but it is this depth card that does the actual unlocking. Motion Sense just speeds up the process so you do not have to wipe to unlock the phone, or even lift it off to trigger activation.
What Motion Sense Does on Pixel 4
Motion Sense can detect your presence when you pick up the phone and gestures that let you significantly flick your hand left or right. With Motion Sense enabled, you can: Swap pieces of music back and forth like the YouTube Music App
Swipe to make an incoming call or dismiss to an alarm or timer
Poke the Pixel 4 Switch screen Wake up when you reach for the device (to allow quicker facial unlocking)
Decrease the volume of an alarm or timer when you pick up the phone.
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How Radar Works on Pixel 4
Google chose Radar for Motion Sense instead of relying on the camera to 'see' it, as it has a longer range and uses less power. Radar uses radio waves to determine the size, position and proximity of objects. Although you can disable all Pixel 4 Motion Sense features (individually or all together), Motion Sense is always detected when enabled.
Google states that its technology uses a 60 GHz radio frequency, does not travel very far and meets all required security requirements.
Range of the Radar
The Pixel 4 chip has a 180 degree field of view, which means that it is spatially perceived everywhere in front of you and laterally. In terms of depth – how far ahead of the phone – a Google employee told me that it searches for presence at least 1.1 cm in front of the phone and detects gestures almost a foot away (30 cm) from the sensor away.
Radar and Privacy
To overcome privacy concerns over the use of radar in the Pixel 4 phone, Google confirmed at its launch case that all radar data is stored locally on the device, and not on Google's server. Also, the radar is not clear enough, for example, to take a detailed picture of your hands or face. The soli sensor is set to look for mass and motion spots, not people.
Is Google Motion Sense adding more gestures?
The company is silent about future plans, including a radar sensor on the back of the phone. However, one contributor said that Google may be able to use the environmental awareness of Soli to increase your productivity on the phone and build a larger vocabulary of gestures.
Will other phones get radar?
When Google does something, rivals pay attention. Google's Android operating system supports about nine out of every ten smartphones on the planet. However, it is likely that the company wants to retain Motion Sense and keep the secrets of face recognition to itself. (Even the Titan M-Chip was developed on the basis of Qualcomm to create its own level of security.)
However, it would be easy to see that other phone manufacturers are pursuing a better system. Few have managed to make gestures instead of using the camera to recognize you.
There is much more to learn about the appearance of Pixel 4 and features including a bundle of new camera enhancements that promise incredible low-light capabilities and like it compared to its biggest competing phones you can buy now. Here is all that Google announced at its event this week .