touchless control

AH Primtime: Does Touchless Control on the Nexus 5 Make Sense?

October 16, 2013 - Written By Brendan Lynch

With the Nexus 5 launch ramping up, it is possible we could see a major product announcement by Google within the next few days. As a result, people are being more and more idealistic by throwing out any and every feature that they are hoping for when it comes to Google’s new flagship. Perhaps the most interesting and practical feature that could fit into Google’s Nexus vision is touchless control.

Touchless control was made popular by Motorola with their Moto X and DROID devices. The feature is actually incredibly useful and extends Google Now functionality even further. The device is always listening for the command “OK Google Now”. Once it hears the command, it will launch Google Now’s voice assistant feature and give you results based on what you say. This makes it incredibly easy to hear relevant information without even picking up your phone.

While touchless control was originally thought to be a Motorola feature rather than a Google feature, it does actually mesh with what Google has been trying to achieve with its latest advancements. Google Glass is the primary source here as the device uses an extremely similar type of command to bring content to the user. While we have been told time and time again that Google and Motorola are a separate entity, its not entirely far-fetched to see some features spill over.

touchless control

One thing we know for sure is that Google is highly interested in making the gap between the device and the user as small as possible. As it stands, people are simply not comfortable talking to their devices. This may in fact be the deciding factor as to whether or not Google Glass will be adopted by the masses. A great way for Google to initiate a successful Glass launch is to make the average consumer as comfortable with voice controls as possible. Obviously, the easiest way to do this is encourage them to begin talking to the devices they use everyday: their smartphones.

Seeing as Google is aiming for this type of interaction, it seems highly likely that they want Android users to have access to this type of functionality. The problem here is that touchless control is actually hardware dependant, not software dependent. This is because Motorola is currently taking advantage of the X8 Computing System that powers their devices to ensure there is no significant battery drain. If a device that doesn’t have a similar type of CPU tries to use the feature, it is likely going to lead to awful battery life, making the feature simply not worth it. This unfortunately means that it will not be a feature that Google is likely to include in the Android software, but rather their Nexus devices.

The rumored chipset for the Nexus 5, the Snapdragon 800, theoretically supports this type of functionality. Qualcomm dubs it “voice activation” but its all the same regardless of labels. In summary, the Nexus 5 will have the hardware and the software capabilities to seamlessly integrate this feature just as we have seen with Motorola’s new devices. So in other words, is there anything that is legitimately keeping Google from implementing this feature? Perhaps. Google is extremely careful with their Nexus devices in that they do not want to undercut their partners. Implementing this feature in the next Nexus device would seriously take away from Motorola’s thunder. Seeing as the company isn’t doing too well to begin with, I hardly think ruining one of the company’s most impressive and exclusive features will help any.