Apple applies for another facial unlock patent for iOS devices

The company's technology would use the front-facing camera to determine if a user is present, and launch unlock or lock actions based on that.

Don Reisinger
Former CNET contributor Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.
Don Reisinger
2 min read

Your face is once again the subject of a patent Apple has filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

The technology described in the patent, which was discovered by Patently Apple and AppleInsider, isn't all that different from one that surfaced from the iPhone maker in December, which described a method for users to lock and unlock their handsets with their face. However, the latest technology uses the front-facing camera on a mobile device to determine whether to lock or unlock the product.

According to Patently Apple, the front-facing camera takes rapid snapshots that then translate into an action. If a phone is on but the camera can't see a person looking at the display, it'll lock the product. Conversely, if a person picks up the device, the camera will recognize that and unlock it.

To add a bit more flavor to the patent, Apple also describes the use of sensors in a respective device that can determine whether a device should be locked or unlocked. For example, the respective device could sense someone holding it, gripping it, or moving it in some fashion, and then execute a locking or unlocking function.

It's the face, though, that has proven most appealing to companies. Back in December, in fact, Apple filed for a patent on a technology that would recognize a person's face and use that as the authentication needed to access user profiles or other important information. Earlier this month, Google was awarded a patent on a technology that will identify a person's face and deliver full access to personal information.

Face-to-unlock is already available in the wild. The Samsung Galaxy S3, for example, has a face unlock application. Samsung's Galaxy Nexus also comes with the feature and allows people to snap a picture of themselves to unlock their smartphone.