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Apple granted patent for under-display optical biometric sensor

Apple granted patent for under-display optical biometric sensor

Apple has been granted a patent by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) for an under-display bundling of optical fibers that can capture 2D or 3D biometric images like a face or fingerprint within its field of view at higher accuracy, which may be a sign of its plans for biometric capture on its future devices.

The patent named ‘Display-adjacent optical emission or reception using optical fibers’ (number 11,327,237), is described as an embodiment of the systems, devices, methods, and apparatus for optical sensing using optical fibers or optical fiber bundles and, and particularly near-display optical sensing. Unlike optoelectronic components under a display that emit or receive electromagnetic radiation through the display, Apple’s patent uses optical fibers or optical fiber bundles to route electromagnetic radiation between an optoelectronic component positioned under, partially under, or adjacent to a display, to along an edge of the display, to an area of an optically-transmissive component or surface.

Apple states that electromagnetic radiation that is emitted and detected adjacent to a display using optical fibers would boost the efficacy of electromagnetic capture compared to a method that emits or detects through a display. The patent filing writes that under-display optoelectronic capture can result in optical transmission losses of 95 to 99 percent.

Said patent could connect to front-facing cameras, speakers, microphones, and a front mechanical or virtual button, Apple writes. Those functions have the potential to be configured as a proximity sensor; a 2D or 3D camera; a biometric authentication sensor for facial recognition or fingerprints; an eye/gaze tracker; device tracker; optical tracking system; and an optical communication system.

The patent filing lays out the potential for data collection with it gathering personal information data that can be used to identify, locate, or contact a specific person. Examples of personal information data Apple gives are demographic, location, home address, a user’s health or level of fitness (vital signs, medication, exercise), and date of birth. Such data can be used to activate or deactivate functions of the device or gather performance metrics, such as fitness goals for relevant apps.

Apple has been aspiring to enhance its biometric sensors like FaceID and TouchID with under-display sensor, which is widely considered a challenging prospect. Industry rumours often swirl over its latest steps towards attaining this goal, like a USPTO patent granted to Apple in July 2021 for an under-display camera that is compatible with FaceID and TouchID, and a report from product analyst Ming-Chi Kuo that an iPhone with under-display 3D face biometrics will be launched in 2024.

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