Apple's Multi-User Face Recognition Plans for iPad Revealed in Patent

Back when the iPad was still just a rumor, the Wall Street Journal reported that one of the features that Apple had been working on with their upcoming tablet was the ability to recognize users by face.

One person familiar with the matter said Apple has put significant resources into designing and programming the device so that it is intuitive to share. This person said Apple has experimented with the ability to leave virtual sticky notes on the device and for the gadget to automatically recognize individuals via a built-in camera. It is unclear whether these features will be included at launch.

The effort was part of Apple's efforts to make their new tablet a multi-user device. Facial recognition, however, never made it into the iPad, but a newly published patent application gives us insight into this feature that didn't make it into the shipping product.

facerec
Screenshot via PatentlyApple

AppleInsider notes that the new patent application offers a way for multiple users to share a device:

The filing provides a simple way for multiple users to share a single device, like an iPad. Each user could customize their personal profile with unique wallpaper, applications and settings, and that profile would be immediately accessed once the iPad recognizes a user's face.

The face detection system reportedly could be a low-power system that is always active, allowing face detection to be the primary method to unlock your iOS device. Apple's patent was filed in June, 2010, soon after the first iPad was introduced.

Face recognition as a security measure, however, has some possible flaws. Google's Android recently introduced a Face Unlock feature as well, but reports have suggested it can be fooled by a photograph of the user.

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Top Rated Comments

nedman Avatar
163 months ago
Hey Samsung, did you get that?
Already on the Samsung nexus as standard. Can see a patent feud blowing up! Not like apple!
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)
FrizzleFryBen Avatar
163 months ago
I apologize for raining on your parade, but somebody needs to tell you that Android 4 already has face recognition for authentication built in. It's just ANOTHER feature that Apple "borrows" from Android.

Apple's patent was filed in June, 2010. Android 4 was announced Oct. 19, 2011.
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Marcus-k Avatar
163 months ago
Hey Samsung, did you get that?

Android already has face recognition.
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Pared Avatar
163 months ago
What some of you fail to realize is that the use of this feature is to allow multiple user accounts on the device that are recognized solely by facial recognition.

This is taking what many claim that Android had "first" and using it in a more practical sense than a tech demo.

I'm not interested in the iOS vs. Android debate - but it's quite obvious to me that this isn't in iOS because it wasn't ready, for reasons unknown. For all anyone knows, Apple may have known the picture unlock was a flaw and didn't put it into production. Google on the other hand claimed it wasn't a flaw and did put it into production.

Either way, I'm sure they're aware of the flaw in Android's implementation and would make sure this isn't a possible workaround.
Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Shabach! Avatar
163 months ago
There's An App For That!

I apologize for raining on your parade, but somebody needs to tell you that Android 4 already has face recognition for authentication built in. It's just ANOTHER feature that Apple "borrows" from Android.

Well....There is actually an app for facial recognition in the Nokia Store and has been available for several months for my N8 and other Symbian devices, so the facial recognition aspect of unlocking a device is nothing new, as Android may have you believe.

Just because other manufacturers want to build this functionality into the OS is really just a natural evolution; and it seems that Apple's implementation goes far beyond the basic implementation that is on ICS.
Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)
kdarling Avatar
163 months ago
Multi-user is NOT what this patent appication is about

I actually may have thought of this before Apple. Why didn't I patent it!

Probably because everyone on the planet has thought of using facial recognition for multi-user login, and/or has already done it before.

Which is why this patent is NOT about multi-user :) ... it's just given as an example use.

THIS PATENT APPLICATION IS ABOUT USING ORANGE SKIN TONES TO HELP WITH A LOW POWER RECOGNITION SYSTEM.

(Along with optionally checking eye and mouth positions and trying to reject photos.)

Hmm. I wonder if the orange range might present a problem:

Remember a couple of years ago when HP's WebCam tracking software totally failed to "see" dark skinned people in front of it? Ooops! Big PR mistake.
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)