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Google has no plans to open API for Motion Sense on Pixel 4 to developers

One of the signature features of the Google Pixel 4 is Motion Sense, which allows you to perform certain (very specific) tasks on your phone with a wave of your hand. Unfortunately, Google intends for the Pixel 4’s Motion Sense gestures to stay limited for the near future, with no plans to open an API for developers.

Ahead of the launch of the Google Pixel 4, we discovered that Google has a hidden API in place that allows certain apps to have direct access to Motion Sense gestures. Through the “Motion Sense Bridge,” apps like Pokémon Wave Hello and ustwo’s Headed South have fine-grained access to the different gestures, even allowing the developers to adjust the sensitivity of each gesture.

Both of these apps, being developed using the Unity game engine, were even able to take advantage of a specially designed Motion Sense gesture plugin. Given how limited Motion Sense is on the Pixel 4, especially by comparison to the original vision for Project Soli, and that a plugin for the Unity engine already exists, one would think that Google would intend on opening Motion Sense to more developers.

However, that doesn’t seem to be the case. The folks at Android Police directly asked Google if there were plans for a Motion Sense API to be accessible to third-party developers, to which the company replied “not right now, but we’ll let you know if plans change.”

This statement is backed up by the code for the Motion Sense Bridge application installed on all Google Pixel 4 devices today, which manages the API. The app includes a whitelist of both first-party and third-party applications permitted to receive Motion Sense gesture data.

What this means, in the short term, is that the Pixel 4’s Motion Sense gestures will only be available on apps that Google has explicitly allowed access to the API. Thankfully, Google hasn’t completely shut the door on the idea of developers getting access to the Motion Sense API in the future. Perhaps their stance could change by the time Google I/O 2020 rolls around, but I wouldn’t get your hopes up, for now.

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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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