For all their usefulness, at least for a certain class of people, smart speakers and especially smart displays are often unwelcome in the sanctuary that is the bedroom. Despite assurances from companies, some people are still very wary of smart speakers accidentally picking up private conversations or smart displays with cameras seeing something very personal. It seems that Google will try to make its case again with a new Nest Hub that will feature sleep tracking courtesy of Project Soli.
It’s already hard enough to monitor and evaluate sleep with professional medical tools, using consumer electronics and commercial sensors make it even trickier. Even smartwatches and fitness trackers that advertise automatic sleep tracking only do so indirectly, mostly by combining data from motion and gyro sensors and sometimes heart rate monitors. It seems that Google will be relying on such a strategy but in an even more indirect way.
9to5Google’s sources claim that the company is planning to launch a display-less Nest Hub this year that will utilize Google’s Project Soli radar technology. The concept is pretty much the same, with the radar detecting people’s movement in bed and inferring sleep duration and quality from it. Since it’s even farther away from a human body, it will mostly be an approximation more than a scientific measurement.
More interesting, perhaps, is Google’s use of Soli, a technology it has been working on for half a decade but hasn’t seen much commercial adoption until recently. Even then, its reception by consumers has been rather lukewarm. Although Google heavily marketed its potential in the Pixel 4, the practical uses of its gesture detection fell short of the expectations it set.
Google won’t be alone in giving the Nest Hub some sleep monitoring features using radar. Amazon was also reported to be planning the same for its Echo line of smart speakers. Presuming the companies keep the feature to smart speakers without cameras, these next-gen Nest Hub and Echo devices could become more attractive to users, especially those who think they are experiencing sleep disorders.