Silly faces instead of a password? Google patents facial password tech to boost security


Google has filed a patent letting users pull a silly face instead of entering a password to unlock their Android phones or tablets.


The new technology would require specific gestures to prevent its existing ‘Face Unlock’ feature being fooled by photos.

The Jelly Bean version of Android introduced the need for users to blink their eyes as a check, but users soon demonstrated it could be fooled.

The patent document was filed in June 2012 but has only just been published.

In the patent filing, Google suggests the software could track a "facial landmark" to confirm a user not only looks like the device's owner but also carries out the right action.

It says examples of the requests that might be made include:

• a frown
• a tongue protrusion
• an open-mouth smile
• a forehead wrinkle
• an eyebrow movement

The technology would work by comparing two images taken from a captured video stream of the user's face to see if the difference between them showed the gesture had been made.

The filing also notes several ways the software might check that the device was being shown a real person's face rather than doctored photographs.

These include studying other frames from the captured video stream to check that the person had made a sequence of movements to achieve the commanded gesture, and confirming all of the frames actually showed the person's face.

The software could monitor if there were changes in the angle of the person's face to ensure the device was not being shown a still image with a fake gesture animated on top.

However, Google acknowledges even this might not be enough, envisaging a situation in which a device could be programmed to generate a video showing the user making the requested facial expressions.

To tackle this it says the device could also "emit light beams having different colours or frequencies, that are expected to induce in the eyes of a user a reflection of light having a corresponding frequency content".

View the patent here

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