updated 12:20 pm EST, Thu December 29, 2011
Could allow for multiple users on iOS devices
A newly-published Apple patent application describes a less demanding technology for face recognition, notes AppleInsider. The filing, Low Threshold Face Recognition, comments that systems which work in different orientations and lighting conditions can strain a device's resources, including battery life. Apple proposes an answer that would minimize the effect of lighting and "biometric distortions," and consume less resources by requiring little processing.
Instead of scanning an entire face, Apple's solution relies on a "high information portion," such as the eyes, mouth, or nose tip. These features could then be used to scale the distance between a person's eyes and their mouth, and compare the information with a reference image. The company comments that such a system could in fact be constantly active due to low power consumption, allowing a person to simply point a device at their face to unlock it.
Under this arrangement an "orange-distance" filter would gauge the "likely presence" of a human face, measuring information such as distance and skin tone. Of note is that Apple suggests using recognition as a way of not only unlocking a device, but also automatically enabling settings not related to security. Different users could, as a result, easily have separate apps, wallpaper, and other options take effect immediately after picking up a gadget.
The lack of multiple user accounts has been a frequent complaint with iOS devices, particularly with the advent of the iPad, which has more similarities with a full-sized computer. Now that the iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch now all have front-facing cameras, Apple could be in a position to implement face-based logins. The patent was originally submitted in June 2009.