BY LAJU ARENYEKA
How better to tell who is knocking on your door than to look through the peephole? In the same vein, there is no safer way to tell who is trying to unlock your phone than with facial recognition technology. Or is there? Apple was earlier this week awarded U.S. Patent No. 8,600,120, which is a ‘personal computing device control using face detection and recognition’. This means that in the recent future, your iphone can unlock itself simply by looking at your face.
In addition to using face recognition for unlocking an iPhone, it could also be used for unlocking specific features on the phone, such as answering an incoming call or opening a text message. 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.
Apple is not the first to exploit the power in the face; Google’s Android acquired similar rights in July. The Face Unlock software available on the Android operating system is worth mentioning. However, the argument against using this facial recognition software is that it is too easy to “fool” the software into thinking you are the owner. As a result of this, some brands also include a “backup” recognition using standard PIN or Pattern input.
Before the Face Unlock, already existing in Android 4.1/4.2 was the Jelly Bean, which had users blink to unlock the device. The Jelly bean is relatively easy to thwart by taking an image of the device’s owner; hackers have been known to paint over the eyes in Photoshop with the same color as their surrounding skin, and then flashing the two photos to simulate a blink.
Even Facebook is much more associated with the face than we thought. Facebook’s ‘Tag Suggest’ feature currently identifies faces in newly uploaded photos by comparing them with pictures in which the users have previously been tagged. Facial recognition software is used to calculate a unique ‘template’ based on someone’s facial features, like the distance between the eyes, nose and ears.
Templates are only created for people on Facebook who have been tagged in a photo. Facebook users can choose to de-tag themselves from photos posted by other users on the site, and these photos will not be used to create the template. However, in an August update to its data use policy, the social network revealed plans to use profile pictures as well as previously tagged photos to suggest tags.
As the world awaits technology that runs solely on facial recognition, there are hilarious scenarios to imagine. What would happen if a user wears too much make up and cannot be recognized by his device? What if he or she grows old? Or has an accident? Or has a twin? Or what if an impostor wears a mask that looks just like the user? Or what if you don’t want to pick a call, but your face gets recognized anyway? Do you shake your head to drop the call?