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Apple updates facial recognition patent claims


Apple recently added to its existing patents covering technology for automatically unlocking an iPhone using facial recognition, hinting that the company is still finalizing other biometric authentication methods to be integrated in future iPhones, according to a report by Apple Insider.

The update to the patent filings comes after months of rumors and speculation that the upcoming iPhone 8 will include either an iris scanner or facial recognition software.

Apple’s patent application for “Locking and unlocking a mobile device using facial recognition” mentions that it is the continuation of an earlier patent of the same name granted in 2016, which was in itself an extension of a patent granted in 2015.

This latest version, which streamlines the patent with a few small amendments, centers on the notion that the iPhone uses the front-facing camera to detect and recognize the user’s face for unlocking purposes.

If the device has been motionless for a few seconds and the camera cannot see the user, the device is automatically locked. Similarly, if the device is in motion and the facial recognition detects the user’s face, it can be unlocked without having to enter a PIN or use Touch ID.

Apple cancelled the original 23 patent claims and replaced them with 27 new claims. In one new claim, the application mentions the use of an infrared sensor, which was mentioned in previous versions of the patent but listed only as a potential feature of the technology.

This new claim states that an infrared sensor is a part of a motion sensing system alongside a tilt sensor, which could mean that the sensor is being used in the application to determine changes in infrared light in an effort to detect movement.

The claims list also mentions a component that could help the user to unlock their device by highlighting the area of the picture where the user’s face appears.

According to Patently Apple, there have been rumors that Apple may introduce 3D facial recognition as a secondary authentication method to work alongside its current Touch ID.

Apple also filed a series of new patents called “Earbuds with Biometric Sensing”, according to a report by 9 to 5 Mac.

The patent filing describes how a photoplethysmogram (PPG) sensor could be added to an earbud and rest on the ear’s tragus, enabling the device to track any biometric information collected by the PPG sensor. The Apple Watch currently uses this same technology.

Since the exterior surface of AirPods and other earbuds fail to provide sufficient enough contact with the ear to provide accurate biometric data, Apple states that it can place the PPG near the earbud’s speaker opening so that the sensor makes contact with the tragus.

The patents detail how a retaining wall be placed on the opposite end of the sensor to ensure that there is a solid seal between the tragus and the sensor.

The patent also states that the measurements of the sensor will be comparable to sensors used for heart rate, VO2, galvanic skin, EKG, impedance cardiography, and temperature.

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