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Ears are big for consumer biometrics

Ears are big for consumer biometrics

So far, ears are the only orifices of the human body that biometric sensors enter to do their work, and they increasingly are hot property.

Today in waxy-canal tech news, NEC and Apple have designs on the previously overlooked canals. NEC and a partner are adding temperature taking and pulse reading to the tasks its “hearable devices” they can accomplish.

And Apple has patented AirPods that would be able to authenticate their owners by how their head vibrates when they talk or even when they silently mouth words.

NEC has worked with Foster Electric Co. to add the ability for the hearing device to read body temperature by reading it off the inner surface of an ear. It also can pick up the user’s pulse.

It already can perform acoustic authentication by reading the tiny, unique echoes created when any sound waves entering an ear. It also boasts speech active noise canceling. Assuming there are a lot of additional capabilities that can be profitably mined, NEC has created a software development kit for iOS and Android hardware.

Apple’s patent (11473898 B) would seem to be for the AirPods Max, the over-the-ear headset, although it could be for use ordinary AirPods. Audible speech (which, with this invention, must now be noted) causes skin vibrations on the speaker’s head, and those vibrations are unique to that person.

Put the AirPods on, speak a little bit and the devices start working if they recognize the person.

That is basically the same for silent gestures. Apparently, fully mouthing words without using the vocal cords deforms a person’s skin – over much of a person’s head, including the scalp.

Apple last month applied for three patents involving biometrics.

Self-mixing interferometry sensors arranged on a set of AirPods picks up the movement and compares that to previously stored patterns. An illustration in the patent indicates that the sensors would go on the top of the AirPods Max’s band with three more on each earphone.

And, of course, if all the sensors can identify users, the also could take orders, spoken or otherwise. Being able to differentiate voices, the sensors would not act on voices it hears from people around their owner.

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