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Here’s everything we know Motion Sense on Google Pixel 4 can do at launch

Last week, we put special attention on the specific apps that we know for sure will work with the Google Pixel 4’s Motion Sense to allow skipping tracks without touching your phone. However, Motion Sense will be capable of more than just media controls. Check out everything you’ll be able to do with Motion Sense on the Google Pixel 4 at launch.

When Google showed off the first video of the Pixel 4 in action — long before leakers started doing hands-on videos — one of the main features was Motion Sense, which allow controlling your phone with hand gestures. The primary use case shown for Motion Sense was skipping media tracks, but with as capable as we know Project Soli is (that’s the tech underlying Motion Sense), we knew there would be more gestures available.

Some of the many Pixel 4 leaks have shown a few other gestures that Motion Sense will be able to handle, but we decided to take a closer look using the Motion Sense app provided to us by the folks at NextRift.

Before we dig into the full list, though, there’s a few things to keep in mind. The first is that this information comes from a pre-release version of Motion Sense on a leaked Pixel 4 device. This means any or all of it could change by the time Made by Google 2019 rolls around, including the addition of new actions.

Second, all of these gestures are listed as “built-in actions,” which could hint at developers getting access to creating their own Motion Sense gestures later on, but we have no firm evidence of that yet. Now then, onto the list!

Everything you can do with Pixel 4 Motion Sense

Digging into the code for Motion Sense, it seems that Google has honed in Project Soli’s capabilities down to four core “gestures” — reach, swipe, flick, and presence.

Reach — Reduce ringer, alarm, or timer volume

When you think of Motion Sense on the Pixel 4, you might at first think of it in the same way you think of Android 10’s gesture navigation: Give a swipe in a certain direction and something happens. In reality, Motion Sense adds the third dimension to it — depth.

Using depth, Motion Sense can detect that you’re “reaching” for your phone and respond depending on what’s going on. Motion Sense on Google Pixel 4 will use this to quiet down your phone when it detects that you’re reaching for it while you have an incoming call, a ringing timer, or an alarm going off. At launch, it appears that the alarm and timer functions of Motion Sense will only work with the included Phone and Google Clock apps, not third-party applications.

Many phones have a similar system to lower the volume of these kinds of alerts, but these are usually based on the accelerometer. Motion Sense will be able to respond more proactively to your intent to pick up the phone.

Swipe — Ignore call, snooze alarm, or dismiss timer

The second core Motion Sense gesture is swipe, which will likely be any broad movement over the screen of your phone. If you have an incoming call, a simple hand wave over the Pixel 4 and Motion Sense silences your ringer, effectively ignoring the call. Similarly, you can snooze your alarm clock or dismiss a completed timer with a swipe of your hand, perfect for use in the kitchen or the bedroom. Just as before, though, these gestures only work with the stock Phone and Clock apps included with the Google Pixel 4.

Flick — Skip a track

Flick, of course, is the gesture we’re most familiar with, having been featured in the official promotional video for Motion Sense on the Google Pixel 4. Using a “flick” from one side of your Pixel 4 to the other, you’ll be able to quickly change tracks without touching your phone. Unfortunately, this won’t work with every media app at launch, but a list of supported apps has already been discovered.

What makes a flick different from a swipe is that the direction you’re moving affects what happens. “Flicking” right-to-left skips ahead to the next track, while a left-to-right movement goes back to the previous one.

Presence — Keep your phone unlocked

Finally, beyond simple gestures, the Google Pixel 4 will also be able to use Motion Sense to detect your presence. At launch, this will be used, possibly in connection with the front-facing camera, to keep your phone unlocked while you’re looking at it. This was originally discovered in Android Q Beta 4 under the name “Screen Attention,” and resurfaced in a recent Pixel 4 leak.

What do you think of the Pixel 4’s Motion Sense gestures so far? What gesture would you like to see in the future? Let us know in the comments.

Dylan Roussel contributed to this article.

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Avatar for Kyle Bradshaw Kyle Bradshaw

Kyle is an author and researcher for 9to5Google, with special interests in Made by Google products, Fuchsia, and Stadia.

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