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Apple’s patent application details advanced facial recognition techniques


An Apple patent application covering a new method of unlocking a mobile device using facial image and depth data collected from specialized sensors and cameras gives more credence to rumors that the tech giant is developing facial recognition systems to either update or replace its Touch ID fingerprint recognition component, according to a report by Apple Insider.

Initially filed back in 2013 but only published this week, Apple’s U.S. patent application for “Embedded authentication systems in an electronic device” outlines advanced facial recognition techniques for authenticating the rightful owner using portable devices.

In the application, Apple details methods of capturing 2D image and associated depth data of a user’s face by combining data collected by a visible light image sensor, an infrared sensor and a three-dimensional capture system.

The method could also include an ultraviolet sensor, a scanning laser, an ultrasound sensor and similar equipment.

The authentication software details instructions for detecting a user’s face opposite one or more of the featured imaging sensors, whereby the visible light, infrared and 3D capture devices collect image data for local processing.

The application states that the 3D capture device might collect information relating to the contour of the user’s eye sockets, chin, nose or a combination of all three of the facial features.

The software may also deploy texture analysis to detect unique lines, patterns or spots on a user’s skin.

Additionally, an infrared light emitted by the system might be reflected by a user’s eyes and captured by one or more sensors.

The user’s facial attributes detected in captured image data are then compared against a database of authorized users for authentication purposes and ultimately unlock a mobile device, such as an iPhone.

In late January, KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo predicted that the upcoming iPhone 8 will feature facial recognition as well as a new design to support an OLED display with 3D Touch capability.

Kuo’s predicted specs for the upcoming iPhone mirrored this week’s published Apple patent, such as the inclusion of actively aligned IR transmitter, specifically a VCSEL laser, and IR receiver alongside the existing RGB FaceTime camera.

Earlier this week, KeyBanc Capital Markets analyst Andy Hargreaves revealed that Apple is struggling with fingerprint recognition capabilities for the upcoming iPhone 8, and only has a couple weeks to resolve the issue before it affects its earnings estimates.

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