Patent Suggests More Security May Be Coming To Android's Face Unlock

face unlock

With Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, Google introduced a new way of unlocking a device. The feature allowed you to unlock a device via the front facing camera. First, you'd have a picture taken of yourself, and from every time after that, Android would use the front facing shooter to see if it was actually you unlocking the device. Soon after launch, however, many people discovered that the feature wasn't all that secure, as a device would often unlock with just a static picture held up to the front facing camera. Obviously, that tis not what Google was intending with the face unlock feature. According to a new patent, however, Google is looking to combat this problem with a new feature that sounds pretty unique.

The Mountain View based company has filed for a patent for a technology that can recognize when a user sticks their tongue out or frowns in a picture and unlock the phone when a task like that is performed. In the patent, Google explains how this technology could prevent the face unlock tool from being fooled by an existing static picture. While Jelly Bean introduced eye-blink recognition, that still didn't prove to be secure enough as users managed to get around it rather easily.

This patent was filed back in June 2012 but has only now been published. Google explains how the software could track a "facial landmark" to confirm that the user is real and not an image, as well as to see if the user carries out the right action. The patent specifically mentions the following as examples of requests that may be made:

  • a frown
  • a tongue protrusion
  • an open-mouth smile
  • a forehead wrinkle
  • an eyebrow movement

The check would work by comparing two images taken from a captured video stream of the face to see if the user had in fact made the correct facial expression. Though, the filing points out that the technology has other ways of checking for movement, such as studying the video footage more to make sure the user did make a sequence of movements to perform the facial expressions. Finally, the software can supposedly tell when the angle of the face is changed, which can help tell if it was just a static image with an animated expression on top.

Google is definitely trying to face unlock true security feature, as opposed to the gimmick many people have referred to it as. Do you think face unlock will eventually be something enterprise users can rely on? Let us know down in the comments!

 Source: USPTO