Microsoft and its fans may boast that it was using face recognition, via the still young Windows Hello, long before Apple, but the iPhone 8 might have a few things over Microsoft’s and Intel’s relatively older technology.
Of course, nothing is official until Apple finally says so next month but, if all these leaks and speculations hit the mark, then the iPhone 8 might have one of the most accurate and fastest consumer face recognition technologies in the market. Ironically, it has Microsoft to thank for that.
Face recognition, at least the way Apple will supposedly implement it, doesn’t rely on simply capturing a flat image of a person’s face and comparing it to a database of mugshots like in some TV show. It instead shines nearly invisible infrared light on a person’s face, which a camera can then pick up.
The advantage of this method is that the system will be able to detect objects, like the user’s face, even in darkness.
That’s not just theory either. That’s the very same principle used in Microsoft’s Kinect controller. It isn’t just an accident that Apple acquired PrimeSense, the very startup behind Kinect, in 2013.
An independent source also claims that Apple’s sensor can detect a face in one microsecond, or one millionth of a second, which is only perhaps a little slower than Touch ID in its current incarnation.
Unlike Touch ID, however, face recognition has the potential to become and even bigger thing. In addition to convenience and potentially greater security, camera and infrared sensors are apparently cheaper to add to smartphones compared to fingerprint scanners.
Cost factors might play an even bigger role in the near future when traditional fingerprint sensors no longer have any physical space on the phone.
Of course, that still depends on how well face recognition will actually perform in the real world. Samsung’s iris recognition sounded great on paper but was easily thwarted by fake photos.
Qualcomm, who is pushing its Spectra image signal processor for similar purposes, says it can help rectify that flaw with some depth perception and “live-ness” detection. It has, however, yet to put that sensor in a commercial product, which probably won’t happen before the iPhone 8 launches.