Commentary

Google's Tiny Radars Tweaked To Identify Everyday Objects In A Home

Facilitated by new IoT capabilities, the way people communicate and interact in their home is evolving.

Consumers already were becoming familiar with speaking commands into their phones for, say, a target destination in Google Maps or to log an appointment through Apple’s Siri.

Then voice assistant interactions moved to the home, courtesy of devices like Amazon’s Alexa and Google Home.

This changed from consumers speaking into a physical smartphone up close to speaking seemingly to no one, as long as they were within the hearing distance of the voice device.

Last year, Google introduced Project Soli -- yet another way to interact by hand gestures interpreted by miniature sensors using radar technology. The idea is for that technology to be incorporated into small devices and everyday objects.

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Inside a smartwatch, for example, a person could move their other hand near the watch and move their fingers as if changing the dial and the actual watch would change time -- sort of like using an invisible computer.

Now researchers at the School of Computer Science at the University of St. Andrews have taken that technology and translated it to be used for object and material recognition.

The project, RadarCat (Radar Categorization for Input and Interaction), is a small radar-based system that enables new forms of everyday interactions with digital devices.

The small unit sends radar waves to a target object, the signal bounces back and then uses machine learning to identify what the object is.

Examples in a RadarCat video are of an apple and an orange being instantly identified and the nutrition information of each displayed on a monitor screen, a painting application and a smartphone screen changing screen functions based on whether the phone is being held in a hand with a glove or one without.

Another example is in a restaurant when a diner drinks and the glass is then empty, a message is sent to the server so they can bring an instant refill.

These are obviously at the laboratory creation stage, where the capabilities of automatically identifying surrounding objects are being explored.

This type of technology will be incorporated into things commonly found in homes.

In addition to speaking into the air, consumers will be looking at objects that self-identify and then will be speaking with their hands. Literally.

8 comments about "Google's Tiny Radars Tweaked To Identify Everyday Objects In A Home".
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  1. Craig Mcdaniel from Sweepstakes Today LLC, November 11, 2016 at 12:54 p.m.

    Google spys on our computers, phones and has taken pictures of our homes from the ground and even outer space.  Radar in the home? This is a violation if not legally, certainly morally of our privacies.

    When I am home, I value more than anything my personal privacy. So what if my glasses is half full?  Google doesn't have a right to know. So what if my roll of toilet paper is down to the last quarter inch from the card board?

    So I go back to my original question in previously wrote in another post: Who gives Google the legal right to invade our privacy and freedoms?  What if I buy a radar jammer, what will Google do? Sue me because they can't spy on me?

    I wrote several months ago it is time for Google to be broken up into small companies like Ma Bell and AT&T.  I lost my job many years ago when I worked for AT&T because of the divestiture. However this was one of the great things that happened in this county. It spurred innovation, new jobs and business.  It time to break up Google.  Speak up about this.


  2. Chuck Martin from Chuck Martin replied, November 11, 2016 at 2:08 p.m.

    Just to clarify, Craig, the radar type devices would be brought into the home by consumers and all of this is opt-in, as in consumer controlled. At the moment, this technology is still in the labs.

  3. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, November 11, 2016 at 2:57 p.m.

    I doubt that this is likely to happen the way it is sounding because once those who are duped into complying become barraged with ads,  unwanted communications and intrusions in their lives they will opt out in huge numbers and the whole facade will evaporate.

  4. Chuck Martin from Chuck Martin replied, November 11, 2016 at 3:04 p.m.

    Said another way, Ed, the market will decide. Also, ads as we know them today will evolve along with the IoT.

  5. Craig Mcdaniel from Sweepstakes Today LLC, November 11, 2016 at 3:25 p.m.

    Opt-outs? Market will decide? I don't think so.  Microsoft had a opt-out on Cortana then took it away. It's is here to say unless you are very smart and know how to hack it out of your computer's OS.

    For Google, they went so far as to "telling" me to take down competitor banners in a series of emails and telephones calls from their India customer service opporation.  If I didn't they would take ad dollars away from me and hurt me in search. I gave Google the middle finger and they retailated.  A very true story.

    This is against the anti-trust laws.

    The point here is the big companies on the net can stomp on consumers and publishers with no fear.  They can do what they want and get away with it.  How far can this go?

  6. Virginia Suhr from Lobo & Petrocine replied, November 12, 2016 at 2:59 p.m.

    As I tell my creative director, companies have been watching us for years so that ship sail long ago. All those scanner codes on with loyalty programs track you and they have been doing so for at least 20 years.

      However, if Google and other companies want to be so intrusive, how about an opt-in trade off - they provide free high speed internet service for all instead of us shelling out money to cable providers for it. If my privacy is going to be invade, please provide compensation.

    In defense of the Google customer service team, they have always been very patient and helpful with getting my ads approved, even if I can't understand their accents. I think they have trouble with mine as well.

  7. Chuck Martin from Chuck Martin, November 14, 2016 at 7:14 p.m.

    Right, Virginia. The tracking discussed here is by a university that is tapping into Google technology, not Goolge itself doing it, though they obvioulsy created the capability. 

  8. Craig Mcdaniel from Sweepstakes Today LLC, November 14, 2016 at 8:56 p.m.

    One thing most of you are missing is, Google makes the rules. not any of us, a university or even a governmment agency.  They are far closer to the internet version of Negan on the Walk Dead. They create their own rules and tell the rest of us to bow down to them.  Like the Walking Dead I did and couldn't make the major changes to my website and Google retaliated against us. This is very real and this is my biggest complaint about Google.

    Last, if Google really wanted too, they could simply tap into your smart phone camera instead of a radar. How do you know they are not doing this now? If they are, who would stop them? The truth is you can't.

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