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Apple looks to automate locking, unlocking iDevices with facial recognition

post #1 of 22
Thread Starter 
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Thursday published Apple's patent application for a system that can both lock and unlock an iDevice based on automatic facial analysis.

Facial Recognition
Source: USPTO


Apple's descriptively titled "Locking and unlocking a mobile device using facial recognition" patent application describes a mobile device that automatically captures and analyzes images of a user's face, or lack thereof, to lock and unlock itself.

While some manufacturers have developed facial recognition technologies to unlock a mobile device, Apple's idea of automating the process to initiate both locking and unlocking an iPhone or iPod is somewhat unique.

The application explains that while many devices have a lock mode, current technological limitations may prompt users to forego password usage because the process can be time consuming and cumbersome. For example, a user may turn off password protection because they frequently forget their passcode, or may be tired of having to re-enter said code each time the device locks. This can be especially aggravating when performing a relatively idle task like reading an e-book.

To solve the issue of having to lock or unlock a device manually, Apple proposes that a product can be configured to lock itself if the user's face is no longer present in images captured by the front-facing camera, and unlock itself when the user's face reappears. In order to automate the process, Apple relies on device triggers, such as motion, time thresholds and positioning.

From the application:

For instance, consider that the device is initially unlocked. In that state, a built-in camera captures one or more images, and the images are then analyzed to determine whether a user's face is present therein. If a user's face is not present in the images captured over a predetermined amount of time, the device automatically locks. Thus, the device is automatically locked when it determines that no user is currently using the device without having to wait for an idle timer to expire or a manual switch off by the user.


Time Based
Time-based facial recognition flowchart.


Similarly, the device can be configured to automatically unlock itself when moved. If the unit's sensors, an accelerometer for example, detect movement, the camera captures an image and the device determines whether it has moved since being locked. A subsequent image is taken and if the user's face is detected, the unit is unlocked.

Movement/Position Based
Flowchart of facial recognition based on movement and position.


The system differs from other facial recognition solutions as it doesn't require manual input from the user, as each step is automated. In other words, instead of simply replacing the password with face detection, Apple has created an integrated locking and unlocking solution that negates the need for direct human interaction.

News of Apple's application comes a little over two weeks after Google was granted a patent for a similar invention, however that system relies on manually initiating the facial recognition process. Interestingly, Apple filed for its patent in March 2011, some six months before Google.
post #2 of 22
Frankly I find the idea of facial (un)locking a bit gimmicky. It's not secure, as use could use a photograph of the person to unlock the phone. I know Apple doesn't use every idea they patent, but I really think they should pass on this one. The finger print technology from the recent acquisition would be a better route to go.
post #3 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by raymccrae View Post

Frankly I find the idea of facial (un)locking a bit gimmicky. It's not secure, as use could use a photograph of the person to unlock the phone. I know Apple doesn't use every idea they patent, but I really think they should pass on this one. The finger print technology from the recent acquisition would be a better route to go.

Apple patents lots of things; many if not most, it will never use. In today's day and age, you just have to. 

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post #4 of 22
I love her to bits but here is one person this might not work for at all times ....

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-2205931/Make-free-Kathy-Griffin-unrecognisable-enjoys-hike-toyboy-beau-Randy.html
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post #5 of 22

The Galaxy SIII and Galaxy Nexus already do this. So, somehow Samsung it stealing Apple's ideas again. Seriously, HOW can Apple patent something that others are already using? What about prior art?

post #6 of 22
Yes it seams that they are stealing Apple's ideas. I saw this patent application over a year ago. Google strangely applied for theirs 6 months later.
post #7 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by lamewing View Post

The Galaxy SIII and Galaxy Nexus already do this. So, somehow Samsung it stealing Apple's ideas again. Seriously, HOW can Apple patent something that others are already using? What about prior art?

Perhaps it is all about how it's done.
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post #8 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by raymccrae View Post

Frankly I find the idea of facial (un)locking a bit gimmicky. It's not secure, as use could use a photograph of the person to unlock the phone. I know Apple doesn't use every idea they patent, but I really think they should pass on this one. 

Google's "Jellybean" OS update changed the feature to optionally require a blink so as to avoid being spoofed by a photo. Certainly not the epitomy of secure, but many users might feel the convenience of facial unlock combined with at least minimal security against casual prying eyes to be worthwhile.

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post #9 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by lamewing View Post

The Galaxy SIII and Galaxy Nexus already do this. So, somehow Samsung it stealing Apple's ideas again. Seriously, HOW can Apple patent something that others are already using? What about prior art?

Prior art in this case would be the patent Application APPLE!! made in March 2011, months before the Nexus was released. Do you not read the articles and just jump in with trolling comments??
post #10 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by lamewing View Post

The Galaxy SIII and Galaxy Nexus already do this. So, somehow Samsung it stealing Apple's ideas again. Seriously, HOW can Apple patent something that others are already using? What about prior art?


Did you not read the part of the article that says "Apple filed for its patent in March 2011, some six months before Google."?

Galaxy SIII was released in May of 2012 and the Nexus was released in November of 2011.

post #11 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by irnchriz View Post


Prior art in this case would be the patent Application APPLE!! made in March 2011, months before the Nexus was released. Do you not read the articles and just jump in with trolling comments??


Haha beat me too it. I was mid researching the phone release dates with my reply already started.

post #12 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by irnchriz View Post


Prior art in this case would be the patent Application APPLE!! made in March 2011, months before the Nexus was released. Do you not read the articles and just jump in with trolling comments??

Google already had already filed for and received at least one patent for facial unlock, and in addition supposedly picked up another much older patent via a purchase sometime in the past couple of weeks.

http://www.techradar.com/us/news/phone-and-communications/mobile-phones/google-wins-face-to-unlock-patent-1094966

 

That doesn't mean another company like Apple can't also receive a patent for a similar facial unlock feature if the way it's done is different enough from Google's.

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post #13 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by lamewing View Post

The Galaxy SIII and Galaxy Nexus already do this. So, somehow Samsung it stealing Apple's ideas again. Seriously, HOW can Apple patent something that others are already using? What about prior art?
.
Even that phone in the hand of the drawn guy from the first exhibit is clearly a Samsung product. Apple has no shame.
post #14 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by digitalclips View Post


Perhaps it is all about how it's done.

Bingo! Way too many ill-informed posters assume that once a person/company receives a patent award that describes a certain feature or usage that no other company can offer a similar feature or product. 

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post #15 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by raymccrae View Post

Frankly I find the idea of facial (un)locking a bit gimmicky. It's not secure, as use could use a photograph of the person to unlock the phone. I know Apple doesn't use every idea they patent, but I really think they should pass on this one. The finger print technology from the recent acquisition would be a better route to go.

The only way I can see any biometrics being used is if it's not for security but for convenience.

For example, if Apple goes ahead with their fingerprint reader they could put on in a future remote for an Apple-designed cable/sat box. As soon as the remote denotes a capacitance impedance from being touched it will scan for possible stored matches from a small DB, therefore being almost instant, and any virtual keys on the remote will change, the cable/sat box channel lineup will change, the listing of saving content will change, etc. to match the user in control of the remote. This could also be implemented, to a degree, with an Apple HDTV with a FaceTime camera with tracking/zooming embedded.


Note: I don't expect any of this to happen, it's just an example of how I think biometrics could be used in way that will benefit the user without simply being a gimmick.

"There is no rule that says the best phones must have the largest screen." ~RoundaboutNow

 

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post #16 of 22
@gatorguy
The blink for facial recognition is sort of like the extra in fingerprint recognition gates: testing for a pulse.

Ick!
post #17 of 22
We should not expect the legions of complaining Fandroids that will surely descend upon this story to actually read it. They will not look at the dates. They will not read what it does. They will read the headline and say Android has always done whatever it is. Apple could invent actual no contact wireless charging (I understand the physics issues, it's an example) and they would all say their phone has done it for years.
post #18 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by lamewing View Post

The Galaxy SIII and Galaxy Nexus already do this. So, somehow Samsung it stealing Apple's ideas again. Seriously, HOW can Apple patent something that others are already using? What about prior art?

 

But were they doing it before Apple's previous patents on facial recognization unlocking, or even this one. Just because this was just published doesn't mean it was just filed. This patent could be a couple of years old, meaning Apple might have thought of it first. They just weren't first to market with the notion

post #19 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by charlituna View Post

 

But were they doing it before Apple's previous patents on facial recognization unlocking, or even this one. Just because this was just published doesn't mean it was just filed. This patent could be a couple of years old, meaning Apple might have thought of it first. They just weren't first to market with the notion

Nor have they been awarded a patent on it yet. Google has, altho a somewhat different implementation than what Apple describes. Is the Apple description different enough from existing patents, including the one Google received early this month, to get the Patent Office stamp of approval? Who knows.

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post #20 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by metfuel View Post


Did you not read the part of the article that says "Apple filed for its patent in March 2011, some six months before Google."?

Galaxy SIII was released in May of 2012 and the Nexus was released in November of 2011.

However, google was developing this well before Apply filed for the patent...

post #21 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by digitalclips View Post

I love her to bits but here is one person this might not work for at all times ....
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-2205931/Make-free-Kathy-Griffin-unrecognisable-enjoys-hike-toyboy-beau-Randy.html

Isn't that just Martin Short with a red wig?

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post #22 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by sranger View Post

However, google was developing this well before Apply filed for the patent...

And Apple could have developed the idea for the patent before Google did.  The only difference here is two small things and neither mean much:

 

1) These are two different implementations of a similar concept.  Totally legit and nothing unusual. 

2) Google is the only one to bring it to market.  Too bad that doesn't mean much due to the above point and that doesn't factor into patent validity these days anyhow.  

 

Just because Apple patents something doesn't say much of anything in of itself.  This just sounds like something that two companies worked on at roughly the same time and they come up with different ideas and only one of them did anything with it.  It's a coincidence at best and not a real surprising one since these companies are working on the same type of device.  Of course their "next idea" will match up.

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