Google gets nod to replace touchscreens with gesture technology
Google may soon replace your phone screen with gesture controls you use in mid-air, like a scene from the film 'Minority Report'.
The tech giant has received the all-clear from authorities to develop a motion sensor that uses lasers to sense what your fingers are doing away from the screen.
The technology has been touted as a potential breakthrough for those with mobility or speech impairments. It also means that problems such as cracked screens may not be as big of an issue as they are at present.
Google says the sensor can allow users to press an invisible 'button' between the thumb and index fingers or a virtual dial that turns by rubbing a thumb against the index finger.
It means that we may soon control gadgets such as phones and smartwatches by gesturing rather than tapping the screen.
The company, which recently started selling smartphones and other devices directly in Ireland, has been trying to win approval for the technology for three years. Now, both European and US regulatory bodies have said that Google can build and release devices using the technology, called Project Soli, accepting it won't interfere with aeroplanes or other sensitive frequencies.
The company says that "even though these controls are virtual, the interactions feel physical and responsive" as feedback is generated by the haptic sensation of fingers touching.
It could add a further boost to gadgets with small screens, such as smart watches and fitness wearables, which have displays that are often clumsy to use with human fingers.
Granting Google leave to pursue the system, US regulators have said that the decision "will serve the public interest by providing for innovative device control features using touchless hand gesture technology".
Such technology was popularised in the movie 'Minority Report', where actors Tom Cruise and Colin Farrell used gesture controls to swipe and select virtual computer screens.
Google says the new tools can approximate the precision of natural human hand motion and the sensor can be embedded in wearables, phones, computers and vehicles.
However, the company is not yet saying when a finished product will be ready for market, nor whether it will license the technology to technology rivals such as Apple and Samsung.
Facebook, which had objected to the system for technical frequency reasons, now says that it accepts the technology will have a "variety of use cases" in future.