Google shows Motion Sense gestures in action on the Pixel 4

Use it to unlock your phone and wave at Pokémon.

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Nick Summers
October 15th, 2019
In this article: gear, google, mobile, pixel, pixel 4, pixel4event
Engadget
Engadget

Yep, Google's new Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL phones will have radar built-in. At a glitzy launch event in New York City, the company reiterated that both handsets will be the first to ship with its new motion-sensing Soli chip. These will enable the "fastest secure face unlock" in the industry, the company claimed, and a number of aptly-named Motion Sense gestures. The phone will, for instance, power down when you walk away and switch on as you saunter back over. You'll also be able to change music tracks, silence calls and greet Pokémon on your home screen with a quick wave.

In a short video, Google research engineer Jaime Lien and interaction designer Leonardo Gisuti explained how the Soli sensor will change your morning alarm. As you reach down for your phone, the volume of the alarm should slowly decrease; at a short distance, the alarm can then be dismissed with a horizontal wave. "The phone is more polite," Gisuti said.

Motion Sense gestures will be optional. Privacy advocates will also be pleased to hear that all Soli data will be processed on your phone, rather than in the cloud, and won't be shared with other Google services.

Air-based gestures are hardly a new idea. Samsung's Galaxy S4, released in April 2013, let you scroll through web pages, change music tracks and accept incoming calls without touching the screen. It felt like a gimmick, though, and has long been abandoned by the company. Google is hoping its Soli-based version will be smarter and ultimately more successful. The technology giant spent a lot of time talking about "intention" today and how the Pixel 4 will be able to tell the difference between a track-changing wave and your caffeine-depraved body reaching for a latte across the table.

Face Unlock isn't a new concept, either. The last few iPhone models have had Face ID and countless Android flagships offer something similar. The first two Pixel generations supported 'trusted face,' too, a not-so-secure unlock method that was disabled for the Pixel 3 and removed from Android entirely last month. Face Unlock is a big deal for the Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL, though. The radar-based Soli sensor will detect when you're reaching for the phone and pre-emptively activate the face-scanning infrared cameras. In theory, the Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL should unlock "as you pick it up, all in one motion," averting any awkward pauses and camera alignment issues.

We really hope it delivers, given the phone doesn't have a fingerprint reader and we don't want to go back to pins and finger-traced patterns.

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