Full-screen Touch ID could come to the iPhone with acoustic fingerprint imaging

Posted:
in Future Apple Hardware
Touch ID could make a return to the iPhone without requiring a fingerprint reader in a home button tat can ruin the clean appearance of the smartphone's screen, as Apple has considered the potential for turning the entire display into a fingerprint reader by taking advantage of acoustic imaging.

Touch ID, a form of biometric authentication not offered by current iPhone models
Touch ID, a form of biometric authentication not offered by current iPhone models


Apple replaced Touch ID with Face ID in the iPhone X, a system that is said to have a far lower false positive rate compared to Touch ID, making it an ideal biometric authentication system upgrade for the iPhone. The use of the TrueDepth camera array also means that there is no need to place a fingerprint reader on the front of the iPhone, an addition that prevents the use of an edge-to-edge display and also introduces an element to an otherwise clear display when the iPhone is turned off.

While a general improvement over Touch ID, Face ID still has some flaws that Touch ID continues to be better at, such as unlocking the iPhone without looking at it , or with it still stored in the user's pocket. There are also times in the day when a user may wish to authenticate with their device but it is impolite to bring the device out in view of others.

Apple had the opportunity to follow the design ideas of some Android vendors in putting a fingerprint reader elsewhere on the iPhone, but it elected to simply remove it completely. A pair of patents indicate Apple is still thinking about how it could bring back Touch ID while maintaining the appearance of an iPhone XS-style device.

The first patent, granted by the US Patent and Trademark Office on Tuesday and titled "Methods of biometric imaging of input surfaces," effectively describes an acoustic imaging system for a surface. By using a combination of acoustic transducers to vibrate a surface in a specific way, it can effectively turn the entire display into a fingerprint reader.

The wave from the transducers come into contact with the fingerprint ridges, changing how the wave moves through the surface and sending reflections bouncing away. An image resolver uses electrical signals gathered from other acoustic transducers in the display to create an entire image of elements in contact with the display, and in turn, where the ridges of the fingerprint reside.

An example of transducer placement and how waves can travel as they interact with a fingerprint.
An example of transducer placement and how waves can travel as they interact with a fingerprint.


By knowing the position and size of the in-contact ridges, the image resolver is able to produce an image of the fingerprint or thumbprint, which can then be compared with registered versions for authentication.

In the patent, Apple adds how there could be filters for electrical signals before and after the wave's generation, a ramp filter for the image resolver, the use of a "substantially planar wavefront, to direct pulses over a specific defined area of the display, and being directed along a specific angle to maximize the ridge detection.

Other elements can include using the touch input sensor for the display to identify areas where the user pressed the screen with their finger for more detailed scanning without examining the whole display. The use of preamplifiers, gain correction filters, and a Radon Transform of a contact area are also suggested.

The second patent, granted the same day and with the name "Acoustic imaging system for spatial demodulation of acoustic waves," covers the same subject area with a relatively similar technique, except that it goes into greater detail relating to transducer placement.

Two sets of transducers are positioned strategically in contact with the surface, with the first deforming the surface with a wave while the second measures the deformation. Again, this generates electrical signals that can then be interpreted into a fingerprint, with the electrical signals demodulated to help produce the image.

Variations on the theme include where the distance between the sets of transducers is based on the material properties of the input surface, or is one quarter of a wavelength of the mechanical wave, or based on the speed of travel of the mechanical wave. It is also suggested the sets could be mounted to the bottom surface of the input layer, and the transducers are made from an electrically-stimulated expanding and contracting material.

In this particular patent, it is explicit in suggesting the object being detected "is a finger," while the user input surface could be formed from "glass, sapphire, or metal," with the obvious application being a touch-enabled display.

Two cross-sections of an acoustic imaging system in contact with the touch input surfaces
Two cross-sections of an acoustic imaging system in contact with the touch input surfaces


Apple files numerous patents and applications with the USPTO on a weekly bases, and while filings may not necessarily make an appearance in a future Apple product or service, it does however indicate areas of interest for the company's research.

This is not the first time Apple has explored the possibility of making an acoustic-based full-screen fingerprint reader. In February, it gained a patent for the "Acoustic pulse coding for imaging of input devices" describing effectively the same sort of system as the latest filings.

In February 2017, an "Acoustic imaging system architecture" suggested the use of acoustic pulses and waves from transducers to perform reflection-based analysis of objects in contact with a surface. Another surfaced in August 2017 for a sub-display fingerprint recognition technology using acoustic imaging, but used a system of integrated transducer controllers capable of operating in both drive and sense modes.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 35
    avon b7avon b7 Posts: 4,302member
    This would be a great addition to biometric options. Even a half screen 'active area' would be enough.

    As we are in the 'good enough' era for many consumers, the same applies here. If a technology is deemed 'secure enough' for payment authorisation, there is no imperative need for more precision if it increases prices.

    Different companies are seeking to place many items in or under the screen. True full screen is the goal without compromises. 
    elijahgmuthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 2 of 35
    wood1208wood1208 Posts: 2,027member
    Apple have done marvelous job with finger print TouchID and FaceID. If Apple ever decide to embed Touchid under/in screen; it will be as elegant as previous two solutions. Isn't ultimate goal to have a front glass slab with every front facing sensor/camera hidden..
    edited April 30 Anilu_777
  • Reply 3 of 35
    jbdragonjbdragon Posts: 2,189member
    I'm all for Apple bringing back TouchID in this way. Sometimes FaceID is better for situations than TouchID and visa-versa. So having BOTH would be a plus. Another plus would be working anywhere on the screen, not just some small specific area on the screen.
    davenEric_WVGGnetmageanomeAnilu_777dysamoria
  • Reply 4 of 35
    irelandireland Posts: 17,685member
    Touch ID is also better for payment in store.
    SpamSandwichEric_WVGGequality72521chemenginAnilu_777dysamorialeftoverbacon
  • Reply 5 of 35
    Again, AI authors? Please read your first sentence of the article. I could forgive it if you were channeling Tweetie Bird and the article was about that “bad ol’ puddy tat”.   But...no.
    edited April 30 elijahgdysamoria
  • Reply 6 of 35
    mike1mike1 Posts: 1,947member
    ireland said:
    Touch ID is also better for payment in store.
    In what way? I've noticed that I can use Face ID to authorize the payment and then bring the phone close to the reader. I do not have to push the side button and look at the screen while holding the phone near the reader.
    netmageAnilu_777
  • Reply 7 of 35
    Touch ID, a form of biometric authentication not offered by current iPhone models

    So the iPhone 8 is no longer available then?

    Back on topic...
    Hey Apple I have money for a new phone sitting there ready and waiting. The same size physically as an iPhone 8 would be perfect as long as you bring back TouchId

    Make it so!


    lkruppdysamoria
  • Reply 8 of 35
    sphericspheric Posts: 1,798member
    Don't others have ultrasonic fingerprint readers? The problem is that they're really easy to fool with a 3D texture, since they have no way to discern actual living tissue the way the Touch ID sensor does. 
    edited April 30 macplusplusleftoverbacon
  • Reply 9 of 35
    maestro64maestro64 Posts: 4,678member
    ireland said:
    Touch ID is also better for payment in store.
    I just use my watch, one less step of pulling the phone out of the pocket.
    netmagecornchip
  • Reply 10 of 35
    elijahgelijahg Posts: 1,014member
    spheric said:
    Don't others have ultrasonic fingerprint readers? The problem is that they're really easy to fool with a 3D texture, since they have no way to discern actual living tissue the way the Touch ID sensor does. 
    Nor does Touch ID do so. No idea how secure the acoustic fingerprint sensors are, but they're damn fast.
    gatorguy
  • Reply 11 of 35
    maestro64maestro64 Posts: 4,678member
    Apple could use these to keep competitor from advancing what they already have, not sure if FaceID is already working really well, why go back. TouchID always had the issue with wet fingers and needing to remove the gloves from your hand. I have not heard too many complaints about FaceID.
  • Reply 12 of 35
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 31,504member
    Nah. The Touch ID ring, separate from the display, made (and still makes) the most sense. A person should be able to open the phone or make a purchase without looking at it.
    dysamoria
  • Reply 13 of 35
    With touch ID, police must overtly coerce you to unlock your phone, something that is typically recorded and can be made illegal in places.  With FaceID, they can just yell, "hey, buddy, over here!", and when you glance over, your phone's unlocked. :)   Reminds my of the old school game "made you look!"
    leftoverbacon
  • Reply 14 of 35
    Eric_WVGGEric_WVGG Posts: 686member
    mike1 said:
    ireland said:
    Touch ID is also better for payment in store.
    In what way? I've noticed that I can use Face ID to authorize the payment and then bring the phone close to the reader. I do not have to push the side button and look at the screen while holding the phone near the reader.
    Huh. I didn't know that. The side button push is very clumsy on a 10S MAXTREME.

    Four months in, still don't like FaceID. Touch ID would "just work" while pulling the phone out of the pocket, Face ID requires this weird stare. Do not like.
    edited April 30 cornchipdysamoriabeowulfschmidt
  • Reply 15 of 35
    macplusplusmacplusplus Posts: 1,919member
    elijahg said:
    spheric said:
    Don't others have ultrasonic fingerprint readers? The problem is that they're really easy to fool with a 3D texture, since they have no way to discern actual living tissue the way the Touch ID sensor does. 
    Nor does Touch ID do so. No idea how secure the acoustic fingerprint sensors are, but they're damn fast.
    That’s an old hoax. 

    The one minute video shows someone using their index finger to register Touch ID on a newly set-up iPhone 5s. Once the setup has been completed, they then apply a tape to their middle finger which, presumably, contains a transfer of the index fingerprint. That unlocks the phone.”

    How do we know that the middle finger is not already registered? Since Touch ID is electric field based it can also work behind that tape on the middle finger.
    netmage
  • Reply 16 of 35
    Again, AI authors? Please read your first sentence of the article.
    Not to mention the run-on sentence.
    blurpbleepbloopdysamoria
  • Reply 17 of 35
    MplsPMplsP Posts: 1,729member
    After switching from my old 6s to an Xs, I’ve found Face ID to be incredibly fast, convenient and accurate. I often wear a mask at work and it doesn’t work then, but I also often have glove on, so touchID wouldn’t work either. On balance, I think there are far more cases where FaceID beats TouchID than the other way around. I will say that I found TOuchID to be more convenient for Apple Pay. 

    A couple thoughts I had reading this article - first, what would power consumption be? Ultrasonic transducers can suck a fair amount of power and it could conceivably impact battery life. Second, can you imagine how expensive a screen replacement would be?
  • Reply 18 of 35
    canukstormcanukstorm Posts: 1,981member
    ireland said:
    Touch ID is also better for payment in store.
    And Apple Watch is better than TouchID
    cornchip
  • Reply 19 of 35
    rogifan_newrogifan_new Posts: 4,213member
    ireland said:
    Touch ID is also better for payment in store.

    For me Face ID has been just as simple. Touch ID was maybe a millisecond quicker.
  • Reply 20 of 35
    frantisekfrantisek Posts: 558member
    My hope for bezelless iPhone SE2. If it will be cheaper then Face ID then it could be workable.Woudl reduce notch to usable form..
    cornchipAnilu_777leftoverbacon
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