Yahoo demos biometric authentication method that uses ears and knuckles to unlock your phone

April 23, 2015 - 

Yahoo presented a new biometric authentication project this week at the 2015 Computer-Human Interaction Conference in Seoul where it demonstrated how body parts like ears and knuckles can unlock phones both quickly and securely, according to a report by IDG News Service.

The technology can be used on any phone with a capacitive touchscreen, providing a faster and more convenient option to entering a password.

Researchers at Yahoo Labs have developed an app called Bodyprint that scans the users’ ears, knuckles, palms and fingers when they are pressed against the touchscreen.

The capacitive sensors embedded in the screen are able to register the topography of these unique body parts.

Based on a test involving 12 participants, the biometric authentication system correctly identified users 99.52 percent of the time, according to the research paper Yahoo presented at CHI.

Yahoo also showed a demo video at CHI in which a Bodyprint user receives a call on his smartphone, and he unlocks the phone in less than a second by simply pressing it to his ear.

“Unlocking your smartphone is something you do 150 times per day,” said Christian Holz, a research scientist at Yahoo Labs in Sunnyvale, California. “You want to make unlocking it convenient but also secure. That’s why fingerprint scanners are so successful.”

The use of body parts as a biometric authentication method was initially introduced by pioneering French biometrics researcher Alphonse Bertillon, whose work specifically focused on classifying ear structures.

The technology also enables multiple users to store their ear prints or prints of other structures in a phone.

Additionally, the scans can be used to lock documents in the device, which would require an ear print or palm print from two or more users to unlock it.

Yahoo Labs is currently working on improving the recognition algorithms in Bodyprint, but Holz would not comment on potential commercialization.

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About Justin Lee

Justin Lee has been a contributor with Biometric Update since 2014. Previously, he was a staff writer for web hosting magazine and website, theWHIR. For more than a decade, Justin has written for various publications on issues relating to technology, arts and culture, and entertainment. Follow him on Twitter @BiometricJustin.