Patent filings hint what Google might have in mind for the Pixel range

After a recent spate of leaks concerning the upcoming Pixel 5, there are now more hints at what Google has in mind for its phones – and other hardware. Gleaned from patent filings, these might never come to fruition, but given that these would fit into the hardware trends we’re seeing today, it won’t come as a surprise if Google eventually does

There could be a Pixel watch with Motion Sense

The Pixel 5 might be doing away with Motion Sense but that doesn’t mean Google’s Project Soli radar-based gesture control technology is dead. On the contrary, a patent filing (dug out by Patently Apple) shows that Google might, instead, adapt this tech to a form factor that’s better suited for gesture recognition – a smartwatch. A Pixel smartwatch has been rumored to be in the works for a few years now, and with Wear OS struggling against  Apple, Huawei, and Samsung, Google does need to act fast. And given that the biggest issue with Wear OS is that it’s usually found on slow, ancient-ish hardware, a ‘Pixel Watch’ could do wonders.

Looking at the patent drawings, Motion Sense could enable wrist gestures that let you interact with apps – Google has outlined gestures such as a hand clench, or fingers being tapped together. This could eventually open up smartwatches to a host of new applications – imagine controlling playback on your Google Home (or activating other smart home products) by just waving your hands – no need to pick up your phone, or even speak out aloud.

A folding Pixel phone?

The first-generation of folding phones might have been plagued with reliability and build quality issues, but as with any other piece of technology, things will improve. And given that most issues with foldable phones have been with their hinge mechanism, it’s not surprising that’s where Google is focusing. Another patent filed in 2018 and published recently shows Google’s interpretation of what a possible folding screen phone could look like – with a sliding mechanism spacing out the flexible display to keep it safe.

A Motion Sense stylus? Motion Sense Stadia controllers?

We sure hope Google has big plans for Motion Sense – the underwhelming experience reported by Pixel 4 users probably has a lot to do with the fact that gestures don’t add much value when you’re using a phone. But what if that was used to add gestures to a stylus (in what could be a more advanced implementation of the Samsung Galaxy Note series’ air gestures), or to a game controller?

That’s what this patent seems to be indicating: Sketches depict a stylus held over a phone, with a radar system determining the “characteristic disposition (e.g., a location, orientation, velocity, or direction) of an object in the radar field.” The orientation then “allows the object to be used to interact with the electronic device using gestures and other position-based techniques.” This patent could eventually lead to Pixel phones and tablets using radar-based ‘air’ gestures. Even more interesting are the sketches showing what looks like a Stadia controller with these features, which could really open up some interesting control methods for games.

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