Patent News | "Apple Patent Describes a More Secure Face-Recognition Syste"

By : Christina Bonnington
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Category : Patent News

A new Apple patent application concerning face-recognition technology suggests an interesting security update for iOS. And that could be just the beginning of what the technology might enable.

The patent, “3D Object Recognition,” describes a novel way to generate 3-D models using 2-D images. It’s a follow-up to a patent Apple already owns, originally filed by Swedish firm Polar Rose, which Apple purchased in late 2010.

In essence, the technology would use multiple photos, or even video, to create a robust 3-D representation of a user’s face. With this 3-D representation locked in, it could then be compared, on the fly, to a 3-D representation built in real time from a 2-D image captured from a user’s phone.

The system has obvious applications in system security — namely, a home screen unlocking mechanism that’s not easily fooled. But the technology need not be limited to just face detection. It could also be used to identify an entire body, or employed in medical applications to identify specific organs, or even tumors.

Another Apple patent application dealing with facial recognition discussed a lower-power-intensive way to identify a device owner when he or she approaches the system. And, of course, Apple already employs face detection for identifying people in iPhoto images, but doesn’t use the feature for system security in iOS.

The patent states that there are inherent challenges in using current facial recognition technology in system security. Variations in ambient illumination and face positioning can make it difficult to reliably match source images to real-time camera images.

Apple’s proposed patent gets around the lighting roadblock by analyzing features like corners and other spatial points of reference rather than performing direct image correlation or comparisons of image parts. As for the positioning issue, it can be resolved by using multiple images for your security system’s source material. This way, even if you try to gain access to your phone by looking at its camera from a slightly askew angle, the system will have that angle in its reference library, and still let you in.

Android already has a face-unlock feature implemented in its Android 4 OS. Unfortunately, it’s easily fooled by holding up a photo of a person at the right distance from the device.

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