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Apple applies for image-based authentication patent

The company's technology displays an image and requires a user to match it in order for a device to be unlocked.

Apple has applied for a patent on the use of images to authenticate a Mac or iDevice user.

The patent application, dubbed "Image-Based Authentication," describes a method by which an image of some sort would be displayed on a Mac or iDevice screen. Aside from that image, options will be displayed asking users to correctly identify what it is. If they answer correctly, they'll be able to access the respective device. An incorrect answer keeps it locked.

According to Patently Apple, which was first to report on the patent application, Apple's filing includes an image showing a person's face. Under that image is a list of names. The user would have to correctly identify which person's face it is in order to unlock the device.

Apple hasn't been the most innovative with its unlocking mechanisms. On iOS-based devices, for example, the company simply requires users to swipe across the screen to unlock. Password protection is also available in the event the device should be locked down.

Android has a host of different techniques for unlocking devices, including a host of swiping mechanisms. Android also supports facial unlock, though it's different than what Apple has shown in its patent application.

To boost its image-based authentication security a bit, Apple's patent application also includes mention of "multiple rounds," meaning more than one image will be displayed and will need to be correctly identified before getting into the device.

Whether the technology will actually make its way to iOS or OS X, however, remains to be seen. Like many other companies, Apple files for a host of patents. Many of those patents don't come to any products companies offer.