New Apple patent hints at Face ID for the Mac and iPad

Face ID is one of the big selling features of the iPhone X. And it may be coming to Macs and iPads if  a newly granted Apple patent (number 9,846473) ever becomes reality.

Apple says FaceID is “even more convenient than Touch ID.” With it, the iPhone X unlocks only when you’re looking at it. Face ID is designed to resist spoofing by photos or masks. Your facial map is encrypted and protected by the Secure Enclave. And authentication happens instantly on the device, not in the cloud.

Apple’s patent is dubbed “display with windows for visible and infrared components” and is for an electronic device (think the Mac and perhaps the iPad) may have light-based components. The light-based components may include light sources, light detectors, and image sensors. 

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Those image sensors could detect your presence and make adjustments to a Mac’s display to optimize brightness, content, audio, etc., or may turn on or off device features. The visible image sensor can then be used to gather additional information from the user (hand gestures, images of the user for a video conference, face detection data indicating where the faces of the users are located, etc.). 

Here’s Apple’s (highly technical) summary of the invention: “The light-based components may be aligned with a window in the device. The window may be formed within an inactive area of a display or within other device structures. The window may have one or more window members mounted within an opening in a display layer in the inactive area. 

“Visible light blocking material such as chalcogenide glass may be incorporated into the window to provide the window with an opaque appearance that matches the opaque appearance of surrounding portions of the inactive portion of the display. In configurations in which the light-based components include a visible image sensor or other visible light detecting component, the window may be provided with a portion that is transparent at visible wavelengths.”

Of course, Apple files for — and is granted — lots of patents by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. Many are for inventions that never see the light of day. However, you never can tell which ones will materialize in a real product.