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back to article Apple patents facial recognition tech for mobile log-in

Apple has been granted a patent on techniques for unlocking a device based on facial recognition. US Patent number 8,600,120, "Personal computing device control using face detection and recognition," describes a system in which a device is able to access its camera and authorize access based on recognizing your face. In …

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Next up...

Apple is awarded a patent for dialling a number using a virtual number pad displayed on a touch screen device or, by using a virtual keyboard filtering out contacts whose name does not begin with the letters being pressed.

I can see it happening.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Next up...

Nooo, their next patent will be 'e'. Anything that uses the letter 'e' will be covered by this, as will anything using similar sounding symbols in other languages.

It's still slightly less broad than this. And has less prior art.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Next up...

I would have thought someone else might have patented the already?

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Bronze badge

Re: Next up...

I just repaired a Toshiba laptop that had facial recognition unlock on it.

That laptop is at least a several years old (did not catch the model sorry) that I know of.

Not sure if it was as old as 2008 though.

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Re: Next up...

This tech is currently available on the PS4 with the camera... Would like to see apple start a patent war with Sony over facial recognition log-ins...

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Pint

Re: Next up...

"...their next patent will be 'e'."

Well, they've Trademarked i*.*, so perhaps you're not joking.

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Trollface

Re: Next up...

i before e except after (c).

Patent Troll Natch.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Next up...

Considering that most of the functionality described here is already in the Galaxy S4, and the rest of it has been built into Android for over a year, I'd be surprised too.

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Re: Next up...

"I just repaired a Toshiba laptop that had facial recognition unlock on it."

How did you do it? Hold a photo of the owner up to the camera?

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Right, time to sue the Android phone manufacturers.

After all, Google must have got a time machine, travelled into the future and stolen Apple's idea, in order to go back again and put Face Unlock into 4.x as a default feature.

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Re: Right, time to sue the Android phone manufacturers.

I never thought I'd be coming to Apples defense on something, but did anyone actually follow the uspo link in the article? The paten was filed in 2008...just like their immigration system, it would appear the patent office is also backlogged...

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Re: Right, time to sue the Android phone manufacturers.

This IS just an example of an 'on a mobile device' crap that happens for patents.....

Google brought their face unlock tech from another company, in 2007 I think.. That company had patents, which Google now hold I assume..

Another example of a screwed up USPTO

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Bod

Re: Right, time to sue the Android phone manufacturers.

Putting aside any possibility (almost certainly probable) that Google et al obtained/devised their technology before Apple in 2008 or not, in the US as I understand it, patent pending does not technically protect the filer, but regardless of that the intent of patents is that you are to actively develop the product or process or otherwise have a granted patent and/or already a product on the market.

But even regardless of that, before Google did it, it was a stupidly obvious way to have a phone unlock mechanism.

Prior art, failure to develop on patent filed and produce a marketable product, patent not granted before competition went to market, blatantly obvious.

But that all counts for nothing. USPTO will grant it. It will go to court Apple vs Samsung (never Google), Obama will comment that Apple is good for US and Samsung bad, Apple will win, Samsung pay Apple for a feature from Google that was never stolen from Apple in the first place for an obvious idea that wasn't patented correctly and Apple hadn't developed until way after the competition had. All perfectly fair in the land of the free.

The patent system has its theoretical benefits, but in general the whole system is so corrupt it would be far better to scrap patents entirely until someone comes up with a better one.

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Deja vu?

That's strange. How can they patent something that already exists? This feature came with my Asus laptop that I bought over a year ago!?!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Deja vu?

"How can they patent something that already exists?" They can't. <according to the patent office>This didn't exist in 2008</according to the patent office>.

If you have a laptop from pre-2008 with facial unlock then you have a point.

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Facepalm

Re: Deja vu?

Ya but is your asus laptop a "personal computing" device? As in a tablet or a phone?

Sounds ridiculous however it isn't when you remember in which country the patent is granted.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Deja vu?

"If you have a laptop from pre-2008 with facial unlock then you have a point."

Alienware/Dell handle this with a piece of software called Aliensense, does 2007 count as pre-2008?

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Re: Deja vu?

That's fine, 'cos it's not what the patent is about.

The patent is for a couple of things, first deciding if someone is sat in front of the device but not actively using it (reading a book, watching a movie for example) and having the device not do things like switching the display off and second, if someone is in front of the device then modifying the behaviour depending on them being an "authorised user" or not.

In other words, if you give your device to someone to watch a movie (or whatever), the device won't then go about showing them all your incoming messages or allow them access to your photographs or the device settings.

It's quite similar to what the XBOne does with Skype once set up, if it recognises one of the configured Skype users in the room when a call comes in it can bring up an incoming call to be answered, but if they're not present then it doesn't.

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Thank heavens there aren't photos of people on the Internet!

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Holmes

Goddamit El Reg

For a moment I was thinking Apple was patenting facials.

That would have heavily rounded the corners.

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Re: Goddamit El Reg

"For a moment I was thinking Apple was patenting facials."

The tech companies have been giving facials to end-users for years and years now.

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Re: Goddamit El Reg

GER: "For a moment I was thinking Apple was patenting facials."

Unlocking by recognition of that activity?

It might get a bit tiring after unlocking your gadget for the 12th time...

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Seriously? How do they get away with this stuff?!

Android has been using Face Recognition to "log in" to your device for over a year!

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Anonymous Coward

RTFP

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Anonymous Coward

Way more than a year... and they have patents on facial recognition as well.. I expect google & apple could end up suing each other over this...

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Bronze badge

Apple gets away with this stuff because the USA does nothing to sort out their patent situations, rather than invent they would rather help their companies sue hundreds of millions out of other countries companies. To be honest, they should be a taught a lesson, its about time UK companies started to get ridiculous patents so that they can sue US companies for hundreds of millions or stop trading the UK. Maybe then they will realise something needs sorting.

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Anonymous Coward

HUH?

None of this has anything to do with UK companies. In this case it's another US company (Google) they are trying to shaft...

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Re: HUH?

I think his point was that UK companies need to start taking out ridiculous patents in the US so they can shaft US companies... they can't take out ridiculous patents in the UK because out courts would throw them out, as has been proven with Apples ridiculous design patent, rounded corners? way too much prior art!

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Re: HUH?

Indeed that was pretty much my point, but i was actually saying that the UK should allow those patents here for a while, so that we show the USA how stupid they are when they get sued for millions in our courts, just like the US likes to do with other countries companies.

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WTF?

Seriously?

Despite the fact that patents for this tech already exist, as well as prior art, do Apple still think they can tack "on a mobile device" to the end of an existing patent and have it declared as new?

Whatever drugs they're on, I want a kilo. As long as I dont get in trouble for using a bong with rounded corners.

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BA

Re: Seriously?

<Sarcasm>

But it "Must" be new because its a mobile device and that is a new world.

</Sarcasm>

We had facial recognition for logons to computers in the 1980s (Dec VAX etc...) as well as door entry systems (I know not very secure as they could be easily fooled/spoofed).

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Scary thought, thief mugs you, grabs your phone, forces you to look at it to unlock it and then quickly disables the facial recognition. I think a PIN is more secure than that.

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Do bruises throw off facial recognition?

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Is a pin more secure though, not really...

Thief mugs you, grabs your phone, forces you to give him your pin for him to unlock it and then quickly disables the pin. If you are willing to look at the phone for him to unlock it, then you are going to be equally willing to give him your phone.

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Anonymous Coward

Simpler solution, snap a photo of the person, THEN steal their phone...

But the fingerprint login for the iphone scares me more...

Thief wants iPhone, he takes it AND the finger needed to unlock... so even if you don't use it, a thief might assume you do..

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Filed March 6, 2008

Clearly others filed for patents on facial recognition earlier, probably not for unlocking a mobile device but perhaps for say unlocking a laptop using the built in webcam.

No comments on the merits of this patent, but you can't use the "Android phones did it first, that's prior art" as an argument, since there were exactly zero Android phones for sale when this patent was filed, nor can you claim Apple is copying Android if they do choose to implement it someday.

Seems a bit unlikely they will implement it since they've already thrown in with touch ID, though I suppose doing both facial recognition and fingerprint recognition would raise the bar to some degree for someone trying to bypass the protection since they'd now have to fool two (albeit neither are terribly difficult to fool) separate systems to do so.

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Re: Filed March 6, 2008

"Clearly others filed for patents on facial recognition earlier, probably not for unlocking a mobile device but perhaps for say unlocking a laptop using the built in webcam."

US8149089 - granted. (Also published as US20090160609). An image clearly shows some sort of mobile device.

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Re: Filed March 6, 2008

The priority date on Google Patents for that one is Dec 25 2007, for Apple's is Jan 3 2008. However, Google says the "priority date is only an estimate", so it isn't clear from the available information which patent would take precedence (if they even have overlapping claims)

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Silver badge

You've been duped by The Registers default melodrama setting. Reading the first independent claim it is more specific than face unlock. It relates to taking an action in response to incomming communication plus face authentication. So one application is to only show text message notifications, or incomming call numbers on the lock screen, when it can "see" it is the owner's fizzog looking at it.

Great for cheating spouses, as I understand the number one reason for getting caught is the untimely appearance of text message notifications.

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jealous spouse

So instead of saying "text message from Jane" or "text message from Bob" it just makes the alert tone.

Which is worse, the jealous wife saying "who is Jane" and maybe not worrying about Bob, or the jealous wife saying "who the hell was that texting you" after every single text message you get.

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Re: jealous spouse

True, I take that back. If a man has his wife sitting next to him watching TV and then a text message comes in and he sidles to one side before looking at his phone, I wouldn't rate his chances too highly.

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"It relates to taking an action in response to incomming communication plus face authentication."

So what? That's an obvious and logical next step. It's a not a new invention or process. I suspect the patent on the two input AND gate has already expired.

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Anonymous Coward

I'm guessing the patent explicitly specifies "for mobile..."

If not, then AMD already has prior art in the area and may stand to make more by lobbing a sueball at Apple than actually pushing the technology in their own OEM design wins.

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Amazing

Getting a patent for something you obviously can't get to work. A parasite on innovation.

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Facepalm

Um... How is this different to the technology that is out there already to do exactly the same thing?

And secondly, am I glad I am in the EU where a patent such as this can never could pass the 'solves a technical problem' requirement for a software patent....

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HTC also owns a patent for Face Unlock originally filed in Nov 2008.

It's just getting silly now.

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So the chance is that Apple had it patented before HTC is actually 10 out of 12 based on the information you give and is found in this thread.

Oh wanna bet money on HTC was first with such odds? No, don't look it up... just state your bet...

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prior "art"

Randy Waterhouse in Neal Stephenson's Cryptonomicon had that on his laptop in 1999!

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Terminator

Re: prior "art"

The Terminator had this even earlier, and sure as hell that is a "mobile device".

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Trollface

NEC have had this for over 10 years...

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