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Facial recognition, although used by security firms and law enforcement around the world, is pretty rare in consumer society, and the only time gadgets tend to get any sort of face-spotting technology is in the sci-fi movies. Of course, the jailbreak and root communities have tried – in part – to implement something like facial recognition to our beloved smartphones and tablet, but I think you’ll agree with me when I say most, if not all of them have been pretty poor.

Now, Apple is renowned for filing patents which never materialize into real-world product, so it’s important not to get carried away, but the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has today published a patent application made by the Cupertino company for a system enabling the locking and unlocking of an iDevice through automatic face recognition.

There’s no doubt that the current method of security – typing in a pass code or a lengthy alphanumeric – can be something of a pain in the butt. In our hurried state to get to that important message, e-mail or game, we often type it in wrong, and for an operating system which is arguably the smoothest on the market, it’s a bit of a flaw. How many of you have turned your passcode off just to avoid the same rhetoric all over again?

The patent is intuitively entitled “Locking and unlocking a mobile device using facial recognition” and gives an insight into how a device would automatically analyzes images of a user’s face, in order to lock and unlock itself without the need for any buttons to be pressed or gestures to be made.

Patents which aim to make an operating system or device as seamless as possible are always of interest, and although the hitherto seen face-scanning rigmarole has been aimed at the somewhat gimmicky James Bond-like features, this automatic approach seems extremely practical.

Here, you can see the accompanying diagram to the patent filing:

Facial Unlock Patent Apple

As well as unlocking based on facial recognition, the patent also suggests a device can be unlocked based on movement.

It remains to be seen whether Apple is serious about developing such an implementation for iOS, but I’m sure you’ll agree it looks – conceptually at least – to be a very attractive proposition

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