Google face-to-unlock patent

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  • September 7, 2012
Douglas Radburn

Douglas Radburn

Head of Technical

This Wednesday, Google have been awarded a new patent, entitled “Login to a computing device based on facial recognition” (Patent No. 8,261,090).

Google already has this type of technology; albeit in a less advanced form; in the face unlock feature in their Android 4.0 Operating System which is in use in devices such as the Samsung Galaxy S3 and Samsung Galaxy Nexus.

So, there is nothing too groundbreaking here apart from the fact that Google have beaten Apple to the punch, as Apple submitted a patent application very similar to this one at the end of last year. However, the way patents are going at the moment, this actually encompasses a lot.

A highlight from the 17,000 page patent describes:

“A method of logging a first user into a computing device includes receiving an image of the first user via a camera operably coupled with the computing device and determining an identity of the first user based on the received image. If the determined identity matches a predetermined identity, then, based at least on the identity of the first user matching the predetermined identity, the first user is logged in to the computing device.”

It states a “computing device”. What about existing items such as the Xbox Kinect being able to recognise you and log you into your Xbox console?

The patent describes several methods, including: taking a single picture of the user’s face, multiple pictures for 3D facial recognition, and 3D facial recognition with the user making a specific facial expression for authentication.

It also covers the device allowing for multiple accounts, each unlocked by a different person’s face.

Earlier this year, Google announced that it will increase face-to-unlock security with their next Android release by implementing blink detection as a “Liveness Check.” – as currently, simply using a photo allows login.

It’ll be interesting to see what Google does with its new patent and whether it licenses its technology for use outside of Android.

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