Future Apple Watches may identify users by their wrists

Future Apple Watches could identify users via bioauthentication when the smartwatch is placed on a wrist. Apple has filed for a patent (number 20190095602) for a “wearable electronic device having a light field camera usable to perform bioauthentication from a dorsal side of a forearm near a wrist.”

The tech giant says that this could be very convenient. An electronic device may include a fingerprint sensor, a facial recognition sensor, a retina scanner, or other form of bioauthentication sensor. In some devices, such as a phone or tablet computer, a bioauthentication sensor may be provided adjacent (or as part of) a display of the device. 

However, in a wearable electronic device such as a watch, there may be little or no room for providing a bioauthentication sensor adjacent (or as part of) a display of the device. Apple says that user authentication may therefore be provided by means of a password or similar input. 

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However, the company feels that wrist bioauthentication would be more convenient. And I wonder if such technology means that different users could wear the same Apple Watch with its settings changed to accommodate the current wearer.

Here’s Apple’s summary of the invention: “A method of authenticating a user of a wearable electronic device includes emitting light into a dorsal side of a forearm near a wrist of the user; receiving, using a light field camera, remissions of the light from the dorsal side of the forearm near the wrist of the user; generating a light field image from the remissions of the light; performing a synthetic focusing operation on the light field image to construct at least one image of at least one layer of the forearm near the wrist; extracting a set of features from the at least one image; determining whether the set of features matches a reference set of features; and authenticating the user based on the matching. In some embodiments, the method may further include compensating for a tilt of the light field camera prior to or while performing the synthetic focusing operation.”

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.