Google was publicly build tiny radar chips since 2015. You can tell you how well you sleep, control a smartwatch, Count sheet of paper, and let yourself play the smallest violin in the world. But the company’s solos radar didn’t exactly have commercial success, especially with in an ill-fated pixel smartphone. Now Google has introduced an open source API standard called Ripple that could theoretically bring the technology to additional devices outside of Google – maybe even a car, as Ford is one of the participants in the new standard.
Tech-wise, Ripple is under the auspices of the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), the same industry organization that hosts the CES show in Las Vegas every January, but there’s no question who is actually behind the project. “Ripple will unleash helpful innovations that will benefit everyone. All-purpose radar is an important new technology for solving critical use cases while protecting privacy. ” reads a quote from Ivan Poupyrev, the man who ran the team at Google’s ATAP Skunkworks who invented solos in the first place.
Additionally, the Ripple project at Github is filled with references to Google, including multiple instances of “Copyright 2021 Google LLC,” and contributors must sign a Google open source license agreement to participate. (A commit indicates that the project has been updated to include CTA.) Ripple appears to be a rebranding of Google’s “Standard Radar API”. which it tacitly proposed a year ago (PDF).
However, none of this makes it less exciting that Soli might find new life, and there might be something about the idea that radar has privacy perks. It’s technology that can easily tell if someone is present, nearby, and / or telling their device to do something without the need for a microphone or camera.
Ford, for his part, tells The edge that indoor radar could become part of its driver assistance technologies. Right now, the automaker says it is instead using “advanced external radars” to examine these features (which sounds expensive to me). Here is a statement from Ford’s Jim Buczkowski, who currently leads the company’s research and pre-development team:
We’re exploring how to use indoor radar as a sensor source to enhance various customer experiences beyond our leading Ford Co-Pilot360 driver assistance technologies that use advanced outdoor radar systems today. A standard API with the participation of the semiconductor industry will enable us to develop software independently of hardware procurement and give software teams the freedom to innovate across multiple radar platforms.
Other gadget companies are also researching radar: Amazon is researching similarly whether radar could help monitor your sleep patterns; this chic dog collar uses miniature radar to monitor vital signs even if your dog is super-furry or hairy, and this lightbulb does the same for humans. But most of the participants listed under Google’s initiative are initially chip and sensor suppliers. Ford and Blumio only – which has a dev kit for a radar based blood pressure sensor – stand out.