This year's new Pixels continue to raise the bar of what we can expect from Google phones, refining core elements of the Pixel experience like the incredible cameras. But more than that, Google's also introducing some all-new hardware, and easily one of the most anticipated arrivals has involved integrating Project Soli radar tech to give us the new Motion Sense gesture controls. What can you expect from them? Let's take a look.
Tucked away up top next to the Pixel 4's speaker, the Soli radar chip powering Motion Sense sends out radio waves which bounce off your hand as it moves in front of the phone's screen. By measuring the reflections of those waves, Motion Sense is able to detect your hand's position and record its motion. That includes both movement towards and away from the screen, in addition to side-to-side activity.
So far with the Pixel 4, Motion Sense supports only a few interactions. You can swipe your hand in the air to dismiss notifications or alarms, as well as control music playback — swipe one way to advance tracks, the other to move back.
Motion Sense also works as an advanced proximity sensor, able to trigger the Pixel's ambient display as you reach for the handset. That's also tapped into to activate the phone's face unlock, speeding things up while helping to conserve battery life.
To help familiarize users with these new gestures, Google's showing off Motion Sense with the aid of a new Pokemon app, as we saw in a recent leak. While it goes over the basics, executing these actions still feels a little odd, especially if you don't immediately see the results you're expecting on-screen.
Thankfully, the Pixel 4 provides some visual feedback for Motion Sense in the form of a subtle "glow" at the screen's top edge. The effect becomes more pronounced as your hand moves closer to the phone, and you can see it swing from side to side as you wave. At the very least, it's a lot easier to use than LG's camera-based Air Motion system.
What sounds most exciting, though, is where Motion Sense could be headed next. While there are only a couple ways to interact with it so far, the hardware's got flexibility to spare. The current gesture support focuses on simple, consistent actions, but it's possible we could see Soli bring even more functionality to Motion Sense down the road.
For now, Motion Sense seems to work well enough, but will it prove to be legitimately useful, or just another gimmick? Look forward to our Pixel 4 review for complete coverage of Motion Sense and all the rest of the new flagship's features.