Project Soli Earns Developer App 6 Months Late

Google recently released Soli Sandbox, an Android app for Project Soli on the Pixel 4 phone. Project Soli, enabled by a dedicated chip on the Pixel 4, allows Pixel 4 owners to interact with their phone via certain gestures. The timing of the app's release is puzzling, given Soli's uncertain future.

Google first debuted the Pixel 4 in October 2019 and it reached stores shortly thereafter. Only a limited number of gestures, called Motion Sense, were available at launch. For example, owners can wave their hand to pause or skip a track playing in Spotify, or silence incoming calls. Google has added only a single new air tap gesture to the feature, and it doesn't appear that there's been lots of developer interest. 

In a bizarre chicken-or-the-egg scenario, Google released Soli Sandbox this week in an attempt to tempt developers to target the technology. What can devs do with it?

"Soli Sandbox is a way to connect your web prototypes to Soli interactions on Pixel 4," reads the app's description in the Google Play Store. "Create a prototype on your computer, and set it in motion with Soli gestures through the Soli Sandbox app. You’ll be able to use touchless swipes, taps, and more in your own prototypes!"

Of note, Soli only works on Pixel 4 and even then only in a handful of countries. Those include the US, Canada, Singapore, Australia, Taiwan, Japan, and most European countries. Worse, Google said that Soli Sandbox is "not a tool for creating production apps." It's just for prototyping.

And last, there's the very big question about Soli's future on Pixel. Earlier this month a report surfaced suggesting Google will drop Soli from the forthcoming Pixel 5 phone. This would leave the Pixel 4 as literally the only device with the feature. Why would Google try to stir up developer interest in a feature that's being removed from the Pixel line in just a few months? Only Google can answer that one. 

For the time being, Soli Sandbox is free to download from the Google Play Store. 

Be sure to read the next Mobile article: Android 11 Public Beta, New APIs Now Available