Apple today was awarded a patent today related to controlling a computing device using facial recognition, a technology that could be used on iPhones, iPads, Macs or devices they have yet to announce. Apple could use this technology for security and offering a more convenient method of accessing their devices.

Facial recognition

Patent No. 8,600,120 entitled ‘Personal Computing Device Control Using Face Detection and Recognition’ allows for detection of at least one user who could then perform a number of device operations without having to any active user input. The application describes two different processes, one being detection and the other facial recognition. The latter is key as it will either allow for or deny operations. In practice, the device would detect a user, perform facial recognition to confirm ownership and then allow for an input/output control application.

AppleInsider describes a possible scenario whereby a call comes in on an iPhone. An individual, presumably the owner, picks up the phone. This technology would capture an image of the individual and quickly perform a facial recognition to see if it’s a match. If deemed a match, the screen would reveal the incoming call interface. This could expand well beyond calls, to text messages, email and other sensitive information.

Hide functions

There are numerous applications for this technology, well beyond iPhones. Apple describes a user sitting in front of a computer. Using detection, the computer could sense a user, with the system used to activate or inhibit device functions or settings.

Apple recently finalized the purchase of PrimeSense, the company behind the motion-tracking technology used in the Xbox 360 and the Kinect Sensor. Using an RBG camera, depth sensor and multi-array microphone, it worked to capture 3D data. Today’s patent application coupled with Apple’s recent acquisition of PrimeSense shows a determined effort to expand access and control of devices beyond active input.