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After implementing a fingerprint sensor for unlocking the iPhone 5S, Apple has now landed a patent for an even simpler unlocking method: by using your face.

Apple yesterday scored U.S. Patent No. 8,600,120, “Personal computing device control using face detection and recognition,” AppleInsider reports. In addition to using face recognition for unlocking your iPhone, it could also be used for unlocking specific features on the phone, like blocking an unauthorized user from answering an incoming call.

It joins another patent Apple landed two years ago for facial recognition technology, around the time some Android phones began letting users unlock their devices with their faces.

As with all of Apple’s awarded patents, the technology may never actually see the light of day. But given just how much Apple highlighted the Touch ID fingerprint sensor in the iPhone 5S, I would be surprised if the company wasn’t actively exploring ways to use face recognition somehow. It could offer a faster method of logging into devices securely than swiping your finger, and it could potentially be less error prone as well (fingerprint sensors don’t like wet fingers, for example).

The patent consists of three systems: A face detection application, which lets it distinguish faces from their surroundings; a face recognition application, which identifies individual faces; and an input/output application, which will let Apple’s devices act on all the facial data.

Both the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 also utilize face recognition for seamless logins, and it’s something we’ll likely see other computers rely on more as well. The technology just requires a camera facing the user, which most devices have these days, so it’s easier to implement than other biometric security methods.


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