Facial Recognition Patent Awarded To Apple
December 4, 2013

Face It: Apple Awarded Facial Recognition Patent To Enhance Security And Privacy On iDevices

Bryan P. Carpender for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online

Apple continues running its innovation engine full speed ahead as it secures a handful of new patents this week, and one of them could put your face front and center. Literally.

According to Mikey Campbell of Apple Insider, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) issued the patent, which describes “Personal computing device control using face detection and recognition.” It would allow you to unlock your iPhone via facial recognition, essentially making your face your password.

Better yet, it would allow for greater security to unlock specific features on the iPhone and other devices, as well as restrict access to content and data on a device, granting it only to authorized users. (Good news for anyone who has nosy friends who tend to go snooping around.)

The technology could also determine exactly how much information is shared for the user on the lock screen, which could come in especially handy when receiving a call. If the iPhone recognizes a user’s face, it would display the caller ID information. If someone is not recognized as a user of that device, it will block all that data, as well as their attempt to answer the call.

Increased security could extend to logging into or out of an application, adjusting settings, deleting contacts and displaying photos, videos or documents. It could even be used to initiate or end a communications session such as the ever-popular Skype.

The detailed patent describes three systems: a face detection application enabling it to distinguish a user’s face from his or her surroundings; an application for actual face recognition which identifies individual faces; and an input/output application which spurs the device to actually act on all the facial recognition data and execute tasks.

You would start by scanning your face so the device can record its unique features such as texture, skin color, size and shape. You could also designate authorized users for your iPhone by scanning their faces and – presto! – you’ve got a secure inner circle.

This facial recognition security could also be used for incoming emails, text messages and alerts. If it recognizes you as an authorized user, it will display the information. If you’re not on the list of approved faces, you won’t be reading anything you’re not supposed to.

While this technology seems tailor made for smartphones, Patently Apple reports that the patent indicates that it may be used on a wide array of other devices such as tablets, hand-held tablets, televisions and both laptop and desktop computers, to name just a few.

Practical application of the technology in the world of desktop computing could include anything from triggering actions such as screen savers to accessing audio devices for a live FaceTime chat.

This patent also underlines Apple’s recent strategic acquisitions, including PrimeSense, the innovator behind the motion tracking technology used in Microsoft’s Kinect game console, as well as AuthenTec – the company whose technology powers the TouchID fingerprint scanner on the iPhone 5s.

Facial recognition is a hot trend and is likely to be the next big thing, especially in terms of personal electronics and home entertainment. Case in point: Xbox One, which recently launched with a new sensor array enabling its camera to recognize users and log them in using only face recognition.

Now as we know, just because Apple has been awarded a patent doesn’t necessarily mean that technology will ever see the light of day. However, given the hoopla surrounding the Touch ID fingerprint sensor deployed on the iPhone 5s, as well as the increasing trend of electronics that use facial recognition, it’s likely that Apple is exploring ways to put the technology to good use.