The United Stated Patents and Trademark Office (USPTO) has today granted a new Apple patent titled “Locking and unlocking a mobile device using facial recognition”, which describes a system that uses a mobile phone’s camera to capture an image of a user’s face, analyze it and unlock the device if it matches the owner’s face (via Re/Code).
The camera capturing and face recognition processing may be triggered by the device having detected that it has been motionless for a threshold period of time. In another embodiment, a locked mobile device is configured to capture an initial image using its camera, capture a new image in response to detecting movement of the device, determine that the device moved to a use position, capture a subsequent image in response to determining that the device moved to a use position, analyze the subsequent image to detect a user’s face, and unlock the device in response to detecting the user’s face.
Apple details that its technology would eliminate some of the time-consuming steps for unlocking a device. With facial recognition, the device would automatically unlock when a phone is moved into “a use position” and the camera image matches the initial one taken of the owner, eliminating the need of entering a password manually or even Touch ID to unlock. The filing also notes that that the technology could be used to identify other authorized users of the device as well, such as friends or family members.
The patent was originally filed for by Apple in March, 2011.