Google launches Ripple, an open standard that could bring tiny speed cameras to Ford cars, and more


Google has been publicly building tiny radar chips since 2015. They can tell you how well you sleep, control a smartwatch, count sheets of paper, and let you play the world’s smallest violin. But the company’s Soli radar didn’t necessarily have commercial success, highlighting an ill-fated Pixel phone. Now Google has launched an open source API standard called Ripple it 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.

Technically, Ripple is under the auspices of the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), the same industry body that hosts the CES show in Las Vegas each January, but there is little doubt who is actually behind the project. “Ripple will unlock a useful innovation that benefits everyone. General Purpose Radar is a key emerging technology for solving critical use cases in a privacy-friendly manner ”, reads a quote from Ivan Poupyrev, the man who led the Google ATAP skunkworks team that created Soli in the first place.

In addition, the Ripple project on 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. (One commit points out that the project was updated “to include the CTA.”) Ripple appears to be a rebranding of Google’s “standard Radar API”. which he discreetly proposed a year ago (PDF).

None of this makes it less exciting that Soli could find new life, and there may be something about radar having some privacy benefits. It’s a technology that can easily detect if someone is present, nearby, and / or telling their device to do something without the need for a microphone or camera.

Ford, for its part, says The edge that indoor radar could be part of its driver assistance technologies. Right now, the automaker says it’s using “advanced exterior radars” instead to research these features (which I think is expensive). Here is a statement from Ford’s Jim Buczkowski, who currently leads the company’s research and advanced engineering team:

We are researching how to use indoor radar as a source of sensors to enhance various customer experiences beyond our core Ford Co-Pilot360 driver assistance technologies that today use advanced exterior radars. A standard API, with input from the semiconductor industry, will allow us to develop software independent of hardware procurement and give software teams the flexibility to innovate across multiple radar platforms.

Other companies are also exploring radar: Amazon is also investigating whether radar could help it monitor your sleep patterns; This smart dog collar uses miniature radar to monitor vital signs even if your dog is super furry or furry, and this bulb does the same for humans. But most of the participants listed in Google’s initiatives are currently chip and sensor vendors. Only Ford and Blumio – which has a development kit for a radar based blood pressure sensor – come out.

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