With Apple's interest in a smart watch gaining renewed attention, there has been a considerable amount of speculation about what the company might try to do with such a device. Some of the speculation has pointed out that a watch could provide a good alternative to traditional passcodes by using watch proximity to grant a user access to systems and apps.
Apple is apparently looking at other alternatives for traditional password security as well, as highlighted in a patent application published late last week and spotted by Patently Apple.
The patent application describes a system that would display one or more photos stored on a device and ask the owner to identify them. The document mentions voice entry as one method of identification, using the example of a photo from the owner's Contacts database.
For example, after displaying an image that depicts a face of the user's sister Jane, the user may speak aloud, "Jane" … Alternatively, step 120 might also include displaying … a set of names. Then, as part of step 130, the user selects one of the displayed names that the user believes identifies the object.
The patent application suggests that the user would be able to choose the number of photos required to access the device, in the same way they already choose between simple and complex passcodes on an iPhone or iPad.
Apple previously filed for a patent on an approach similar to Android's Face Unlock feature, where the phone unlocks when it recognizes the face of the owner through the front-facing camera, though it was discovered soon after it debuted that the system could be easily fooled by using a photo of the owner displayed on another handset. Additional innovations such as a "Liveness Check" requiring that the user blink for Face Unlock to function have, however, been developed to increase security.