When Apple recently announced its new iPhone X (pronounced iPhone 10), one of the most impressive additions to this new phone was its ability to utilise facial recognition as a security feature to unlock the phone.
Whilst there has since been talk that many other mobile manufacturers are also looking into incorporating facial ID into their phones, this is still very much unknown terrain for the average mobile user. Below is an explanation of how it works:
The technology behind facial recognition
When facial recognition software was initially developed, it had the purpose of recognising specific faces in a crowd and, as such, it was used to pick specific faces and compare them to a database of stored images.
Facial recognition software works by comparing numerous distinguishable landmarks on the face, called nodal points – each face has about 80 of these – to the nodal points found on the images of face in a database.
Nodal points are the peaks and valleys that make up facial features. The distance of and between these nodal points is measured in sub-millimeters to make up a numerical code, called a faceprint. For example, the depth of the eye sockets, the distance between the eyes, the width of the nose, the shape of the cheekbones, and the length of the jaw line determine the numerical code that makes up the template for the faceprint.
The development of 3D technology has allowed facial recognition to be utilised even in low-light conditions and with moveable subjects. 3D technology also vastly improves the accuracy of facial recognition, as it mostly uses measurements of distinctive features of the face, like the curves of the eye socket, nose and chin and other areas, where the rigid tissue and bone is most apparent. Using measurements like these improves accuracy because these areas are unique and don’t change over time.
Facial recognition and cellphones
Apple was not the first mobile phone manufacturer to use facial recognition as a security tool in its phones – that honour belongs to Samsung that used iris scanning in its Galaxy Note 7, Galaxy S8 and Note 8 cellphones. Apple’s Face ID just went one step further to maps a user’s entire face, not just the eyes.
Whilst Apple’s Face ID will only really be put to the test once the iPhone X has been released and used by the general public, the security of facial recognition as a security measure still takes a backseat to trusty old passwords. With that being said, the convenience this technology brings to users is unprecedented, and sure to be incorporated into more and more mobile devices as it develops.