(Bloomberg) -- Google’s new Pixel 4 smartphones incorporate gesture-tracking technology reminiscent of “Minority Report,” the sci-fi movie set in the year 2054. Germany’s Infineon Technologies AG supplied the hardware to make the feature available a few decades earlier than filmmakers anticipated.
Infineon’s radar chip can track minute motions of the human hand in real time, see through non-metallic objects, and measure distances and speed. It’s built under the glass front of the phones the U.S. tech giant unveiled earlier Tuesday.
Paired with Google’s algorithms, the match-tip-sized chip makes it possible to use hand gestures to interact with apps and features.
It could technically perform other tasks with appropriate software. Andreas Urschitz, who heads Infineon’s power management and multimarket division, said these could include seeing through walls to detect wiring, or understanding human non-verbal gestures such as nodding.
“The technology is a breakthrough compared to the approaches that already exist,” Urschitz said Tuesday in a phone interview.
Beyond the wow factor, Infineon also expects the technology to boost sales. Urschitz said the company is in talks with more technology companies and betting on the chip being installed in devices such as speakers, TV sets, and even air conditioning units. Infineon eventually sees sales of the chip reaching a significant three-digit million euro figure per year, he said.
Infineon has been selling radar chips to the auto industry for years but it has been able to reduce the power consumption and make them smaller, opening the door to them being integrated into portable consumer devices. The company’s producing the chip at its plants in Dresden and Regensburg, Germany.
The Alphabet Inc. unit’s Pixel devices aren’t the first to draw comparisons to “Minority Report.” Microsoft Corp.’s Kinect devices for its Xbox consoles used an array of sensors and cameras to detect full-body movement of gamers in real time. Samsung Electronics Co. has experimented with gesture-control too, most recently with its Galaxy Note smartphones and the use of a proprietary stylus.