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Google Tinkers With Radar to Make Home Devices Smarter

Smart home devices may one day detect your proximity and adjust accordingly.

google nest hub 2nd gen
Google Nest Hub may one day use radar to detect if a person is looking at it.
Chris Monroe/CNET

Google's design team is looking at ways to use radar technology to detect a person's proximity and have technology respond automatically, without having to use wake words such as "OK Google," the company said in a blog post Tuesday. This could be as simple as pausing a YouTube video when a person walks away. 

The radar-based sensing platform, called Soli, has been in development for the past six years. The idea isn't to only have technology react to a person's movements, but impart a "social intelligence" on technology so that it may "participate in our daily life in a more harmonious and considerate way."

The idea is for technology to blend more into the background. It's what Google calls ambient computing, or when technology becomes so integrated that humans won't even notice.

While Google still primarily makes most of its revenue from ad sales linked to search, the company is investing heavily in artificial intelligence to achieve an ambient computing future. Google-parent Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai made AI and ambient computing a focal point at Google I/O earlier this year, the company's yearly developer event. 

With the launch of the Pixel 7 Pro and Pixel Watch earlier this year, Google put an emphasis on its Tensor G2 chip that can use AI to better take photographs and translate languages. Considering that Apple's iPhone has surpassed Google-owned Android for the first time in over a decade in the US, creating a futuristic ecosystem of devices will likely be necessary to continue competing.

It's still uncertain when people might see Soli's radar tech in home devices, but with the Pixel Tablet set to release next year, it could be the flagship showcase device for Google.