One of the Pixel 4 series’ unique features is the Soli chip in the top bezel. Soli is radar technology and it allows users to wave their hands in front of the phone to perform actions. Soli, a.k.a. “Motion Sense“, was pretty limited at first, but more features have been added since launch, and now Google is releasing the “Soli Sandbox” app to hopefully spur development.
Motion Sense debuted on the Pixel 4 series with only a few features. It could control music by skipping tracks, control a few system apps, and it could detect when you were picking up the phone, initializing Face Unlock. In March, Google added an “Air Tap” gesture in the Pixel Feature Drop. It allowed users to play or pause the music by “tapping” the air above the phone. But other than controlling music, Soli is extremely limited in what it can do. Google hopes to change that with the Soli Sandbox app.
The Soli Sandbox app is an extension of the web interface where developers can create prototype Motion Sense interactions for the Pixel 4. The Sandbox app allows developers to test out their projects on the actual phone to use the air gestures in real life. It’s not for consumers or for creating “production apps,” but you can try out the four gestures that Soli can do right now.
- A presence event is sent any time Soli detects one person within -0.7 meter (2.3 ft) of the device.
- A reach event is sent any time Soli detects a movement that resembles a hand reaching toward the device, within about 5-10cm.
- A swipe event is sent any time Soli detects movement that resembles a hand waving above the device, similar to opening a curtain in either direction.
- A tap event is sent when Soli detects a movement that resembles a single hand bounce above the center of the phone. A tap feels similar to dribbling a basketball.
The Soli Sandbox app includes four prototypes and developers can easily open projects via URL or local files. You can see a console log of interactions while testing. The app is, unsurprisingly, only available on the Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL in the US, Canada, Singapore, Australia, Taiwan, and many European countries (where Soli is enabled).