Google has used the opportunity of CES 2022 to launch Ripple, an open standard of protocol for putting radar capabilities in consumer devices. Companies including Ford, Texas Instruments and blood sensor maker BluMeo are already on board.
The Consumer Technology Association (CTA), organizer of CES, has been hosting Ripple for some time, with the goal of “enabling hardware/software interoperability and accelerating the development of applications for general-purpose consumer radar.”
As noted by 9to5Google, the initiative stems from the Advanced Technology and Projects (ATAP) group at Google, which was previously responsible for Project Soli – the miniature built into the Pixel 4, Pixel 4 XL, and second-gen Nest Hub. radar technology.
Those Google gadgets demonstrated some uses of radar components: for example, detecting hand gestures on top of the phone, and monitoring your activities during sleep without the need for a wearable. However, the technology hasn’t been widely adopted, even within Google’s family of hardware devices.
Ripple should make it easier for other manufacturers and software developers to get involved, and semiconductor makers Infineon and NXP have also signed up for the project. How long it will take for us to see new devices as a result of Ripple remains to be seen.
“Ripple Will Unlock Useful Innovation That Will Benefit Everyone” Ivan Popyrev said, director of engineering and technical projects at Google ATAP. “General purpose radar is a major emerging technology for solving critical use cases in a privacy-respecting manner.”
Analysis: Radar is more useful than you might think
If you’ve used a Pixel 4 or Pixel 4 XL, you’ll know that the included motion-sensing radar module can actually be very useful – not only for recognizing gestures, but also for detecting whether Alarms can go silent when the device is being moved and when it is about to be picked up (for example, when you reach over your hand to turn them off).
Google didn’t include the same capabilities in the Pixel 5 or Pixel 6 phones, despite making noises that it was still invested in the technology for a long period of time. Radar-powered sensing made it into the most recent Nest Hub, though it’s able to monitor your sleep from the side of the bed.
The Ripple team suggests potential applications including non-invasive wellness monitoring, occupancy detection in buildings, human activity recognition (from tracking exercises to detecting falls), and touchless gesture control. As The Nerdshala noted, it could also enable driver assistance technologies inside cars.
Most of these features can be offered with cameras and other types of sensors, but smaller radars offer advantages in terms of speed and accuracy that other methods cannot match. At the moment, radar components are developed on a one-off, bespoke basis, something that Ripple is aiming to change.
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