As the battle between Google and Apple rumbles on, new features that find themselves the key selling point for one device could find themselves on a competitor’s within the year.
Apple’s Siri, which became an exclusive piece of kit for the iPhone 4S, is likely to become a bigger feature for the firm’s other devices and is driving a desire for more voice-recognition and search features on Android smartphones. Meanwhile face-recognition, a headline feature of Android’s newest update, Ice Cream Sandwich, could be finding its way onto new Apple iPhones and iPads.
A patent filed by Apple suggests the firm is looking into technology making it easier to unlock a device simply by looking at it. Face-recognition unlock is already in use on the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, the first to be powered by Android 4.0. There has been a mixed response to the software, with some users complaining it takes too long for the face to be picked up and it is prone to errors.
The patent filed by Apple uses a forward facing camera. Called “Low Threshold Face Recognition” the application would recognise different features of the face, rather than it in its entirety, which Apple says drains time and battery on a device. Others can rely too much on lighting conditions, meaning in the evening or a dark setting it becomes impossible to use the feature to unlock the phone. Relying on features makes it much quicker. The patent reveals Apple is looking at the distance between the eyes and that between the eyes and the mouth. The technology first sees the face, records where the eye line is, measures the distance between the eyes then moves down to the mouth. If it all fits the face is recognised and the device unlocks. This would remove the flaw that was spotted in Google’s version that saw one user being able to unlock a device simply by showing a picture of the owner.
For Apple to bring in Face-recognition could hold myriad possibilities for its wide range of products. The iPhone 4S is said to already use the technology in some capacity but it would more likely get a much wider run on the iPhone 5 or iPad 3. The technology would prove popular, as long as it worked quickly and accurately as it would remove the need for security codes and passwords to unlock devices, which can take a great deal of time particularly when on the move. It is also more secure and less prone to misuse. It may not simply be used for unlocking a device but also for any other security features like changing a setting.
The software would also be fitting with Steve Jobs concept of creating simpler user interfaces. It was his ambition and drive to make it easier and easier for people to use technology. Unlocking a phone just by looking into it, or even by waving a hand or pressing a finger would be a really simple interface. The days of having to remember a password could be coming to an end.