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Apple Patent Reveals Face Detection for iOS

As stated in previous reports, Apple insiders claim that the company wants iOS to recognize the end-user across multiple devices, whether its the iPhone or the current hot topic, Apple's alleged iTV. Now, on the heels of recent iTV reports, the US Patent & Trademark Office has conveniently published a patient application from Apple entitled "Low Threshold Face Recognition" which could allow the end-user to unlock an iOS device via facial recognition, even when it's in sleep mode.

According to the application diagrams, the face recognition system doesn't use correlation matching, but rather uses a weighted difference map. The system will reportedly first apply an orange-distance filter to determine variations in skin tone, and then determine the position of high-information areas like the eyes and mouth. It will then analyze the weighted differences between the normalized target face (image) and the normalized detected face (user). After that, both frames are compared on a whole. If successful, the security system will acknowledge the user and unlock the device. Throw in a possible voice recognition via Siri, and you have a two-way security measure that eliminates the need for the current Slide to Unlock and PIN features.

But this new system could do more than just unlock the device -- it could provide user customization. For example, specific settings could be loaded onto an iPad once the device detects a specific user, loading a special wallpaper, app arrangement, notification settings and more. What's more, it could be possible to lock media to a specific user's face, thus leading back to Apple's talks with media execs about recognizing the user across multiple devices. If the user's face is stored in the cloud, it may be possible that the user could share a movie with friends on their own iTV or iPad 2.

But as PatentlyApple points out, the feature is more or less bound to the user's device. "The methods disclosed in Apple's patent specification could adequately recognize a user associated with an iOS device without computing resources overhead that is characteristic of other face recognition techniques," the site reports. "Therefore, the face detection and recognition methods described in Apple's specification could be implemented in hardware, for example in graphical processing units (GPUs) of the iOS device. Apple clarifies that the new face detection and recognition system will apply to the iPhone, iPad, iPod touch and MacBook."

To learn more about Apple's new patent, head here.

Kevin started taking PCs apart in the 90s when Quake was on the way and his PC lacked the required components. Since then, he’s loved all things PC-related and cool gadgets ranging from the New Nintendo 3DS to Android tablets. He is currently a contributor at Digital Trends, writing about everything from computers to how-to content on Windows and Macs to reviews of the latest laptops from HP, Dell, Lenovo, and more. 

  • Isn't Samsung doing the same thing?
  • thrasher32
    I don't want Apple or anyone else storing my digital facial profile.

    Also, how is "low threshold face recognition" secure? If I mock up a mannequin head with the same general features in the correct (or close-enough to pass) positions, or even hold up a photograph of my face, isn't that enough to get past the facial recognition system in a "low threshold" configuration?
  • Dantte
    Android already has this, nice another legal battle.
  • How is this possible, isn't the new android doing the same? why can't they rape apple for this finally?
  • alyoshka
    Nah, this is no battle, after 10 years they'll sue everyone using FR saying they invented it. Pretty simple foresight actually, since it's very cleverly labeled as low threshold, meaning the beginning or basic of FR tech of the future.
  • STravis
    Is this an approved patent or a filed patent?
  • dheadley
    The patent was applied for almost two years ago. It predates Androids use of this technology. On the other hand though PC's have done this for far longer than that.
  • makaveli316
    same ol', same ol'....
  • people recognize each other all the time... I don't care if apple patents the technical methods, filters etc... to derive recognition. But if they think they can patent "recognition" itself then the patent system is truly broken.
  • Vladislaus
    dheadleyThe patent was applied for almost two years ago. It predates Androids use of this technology. On the other hand though PC's have done this for far longer than that.The Android face unlock was first shown in may 2011, and this patent was filled in June 2010. I wonder how much time was face unlock under development for Android. Also like you stated facial recognition isn't something new.