When Google released Ice Cream Sandwich back in October 2011 it was the first time that Android truly came into its own as a mobile operating system. The upgrade brought a plethora of new features to the Android ecosystem including usability improvements, improved voice recognition, Android Beam and of course Face Unlock. Face Unlock allowed users to instantly unlock their phones by simply activating the screen and looking at the screen, while it wasn’t as secure as a password it still provided a reasonable amount of security, while still allowing quick access to the device. However when it was first introduced, Face Unlock was criticised by some due to the relative ease one could fool the system by using things such as a photo of the owner. Fortunately the Google has improved the software since then with features like blink detection to prevent any dubious individuals from breaking into your device too easily.
Some of you may note that this patent application was only sent back in June last year despite Face Unlock having been out since October of 2011. Well this patent covers how the software and hardware actually recognise a face; the actual patent for using facial recognition was granted in September last year. This patent explains the processes that go on behind the scenes to unlock the phone, listing how the software recognises a face and decides whether or not the device should be unlocked etc. However, despite Google’s patents regarding facial recognition and Face Unlock, Apple persists in their attempts get a foothold in the technology with some patents of their own. Remember, patents were originally designed as a method of protecting your intellectual property and inventions yet recently Apple has adopted the idea of pursuing litigation instead of improving their products by using their patents as weapons to stamp out competition, so these patents could prove to be an important tool in upcoming patent disputes. This patent not only acts as a tool for defence, but also a means for Google to earn extra revenue through licensing agreements, considering the proportion of Google’s revenue is still earned through advertisement, alternative revenue streams could prove useful, especially if Samsung decides to push their weight around.