On Thursday the U.S. Patent and Trademark office released an Apple patent application for a system that could lock and unlock devices using automatic facial recognition.
The application describes a mobile device that automatically captures and analyzes a user’s face, or lack thereof, to lock and unlock itself. Some manufacturers have pursued the idea of using facial recognition technology like this in the past, but Apple’s idea of using it to automate locking and unlocking is an interesting twist.
Apple states in their application that many users forego using password security because it’s too cumbersome to constantly type in a password, so they are proposing a device that can be configured to lock itself if the user’s face is no longer present in the front-facing camera and unlock itself when the user’s face appears again.
This new idea differs from other facial recognition technology in that no human interaction is required at all. Google was granted a patent a couple weeks ago for a similar idea, except that theirs would require a manual initiation of the facial recognition process. However, Apple’s patent application was actually filed six months before Google’s, in March 2011.