Home / Mobile / News / Apple's latest patent could bring FaceID to masked faces
mobile

Apple's latest patent could bring FaceID to masked faces

Face masks may be the new normal, but Apple's latest patent might signal the end of pulling down your mask to unlock your iPhone. 

With face masks becoming the new normal, users currently have to either punch in their security codes every time they want to check their messages or lift their masks to quickly use FaceID.
With face masks becoming the new normal, users currently have to either punch in their security codes every time they want to check their messages or lift their masks to quickly use FaceID. (REUTERS)

FaceID, Apple’s industry-leading biometric face recognition technology, is about to get a lot better, with the company winning an important patent for facial recognition employing the use of heat maps to authenticate a user’s face.

The company’s patent filing also includes details of the new technology, describing “occlusion” of the user in images during the facial recognition process, reports PatentlyApple. Occlusion can be described as the obstruction of a user’s face, making it inaccessible to the facial recognition scanner - like hair, bandannas, scarves, and face masks, which can all reduce the accuracy of a biometric scanner like Apple's FaceID.

Figure 8 shows various centers of gravity on a human face, which Apple intends o use for facial heat mapping.
Figure 8 shows various centers of gravity on a human face, which Apple intends o use for facial heat mapping. (US Patent Office)

In order to get around the challenges faced by occlusion, Apple wants to generate heat maps to assess hidden landmarks on a user’s face. The system will then rely on a grid to estimate where your facial landmarks would be. You can also refer to a diagram from Apple’s patent filing, that shows landmark shapes along with a heat map to get past an obstruction on the lower right side of the face, near the mouth.

Figure 9 shows the landmarks placed on top of a human face that is obscured on one side.
Figure 9 shows the landmarks placed on top of a human face that is obscured on one side. (US Patent Office)

This enhancement to Apple’s facial recognition is more important than ever, considering the way the novel coronavirus pandemic has affected users of the iPhone X and upward. It is possible that the new patent will help Apple accurately authenticate masked users. With face masks becoming the new normal, users currently have to either punch in their security codes every time they want to check their messages or lift their masks to quickly use FaceID.

Also read: iPhone 13 may come with a feature Apple hasn’t put in any iPhone yet

While HT Tech had previously reported that Apple might be considering the inclusion of an in-screen fingerprint sensor for the upcoming iPhone 13, the company’s new patent for authenticating images of users with obscured facial features could mean that Apple might simply continue with the use of facial biometric authentication on their next flagship device.

Follow HT Tech for the latest tech news and reviews, also keep up with us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. For our latest videos, subscribe to our YouTube channel.