Google receives patent for Apple’s Face ID-like tech with multiple use cases

“The setup makes use of VCSELs to throw light upon a surface, thereby enabling sensors to gauge depth, texture and configuration of the said surface.”

Google has received a new patent, bearing identification number 10,139,217, from the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). The patent details a technology very similar to Apple’s Face ID biometric authentication setup, raising speculation that future Pixel smartphones, beginning with 2019 itself, may feature such technology. The setup makes use of vertical cavity surface-emitting lasers (VCSELs) to throw light upon a surface, thereby enabling sensors to gauge depth, texture and configuration of the said surface.

The patented technology is actually very similar to Apple’s Face ID. Introduced with the iPhone X (review), Apple’s Face ID completely replaced Touch ID, and instead equipped the iPhone X with an infrared camera, a flood illuminator and a dot projector, all of which combined allowed the device to see and detect a face even in low light environment, scan it and identify its exact pattern. Essentially, the dot projector helped create and store a 3D model of a person’s face, which in turn was used for biometric authentication.

Google face recognition patent

Google has detailed the implementation of its laser-based object and surface recognition technology in the above figures, which include the process of operation of both emitting light, as well as receiving light. Detailing the operation in their patent, Google states that the light emitting diode “can be part of a smartphone, digital assistant, head-mounted display, controller for a robot or other system, or some other portable computing device. In such examples, the light emitted from the light emitter (e.g., as different patterns of illumination) could be used to determine the location of objects (e.g., of objects including light detectors) relative to such other objects (e.g., the location of a user’s hand, on which is disposed a light detector, relative to a user’s head, on which a head-mounted display including the light emitter 560 is disposed). Alternatively, the light emitter can be part of a system that is mounted to a floor, wall, ceiling, or other object or building such that the location of the light emitter is relatively static relative to an environment of interest.

Essentially, the said mechanism affirms that with this patented technology, Google can implement a Face ID-like biometric authentication technology, as well as use the same set of hardware for use cases such as depth scaling, motion-sensing and gesture recognition. It remains to be seen how Google brings this into implementation, going forward. Previous reports had stated that it will at least be 2019 when the first Android phones will get to implement Face ID-like technology, owing to the shortage of supply of VCSELs. With the new year almost around the corner, it certainly seems that we’ll see the first of Android-powered devices, equipped with sophisticated face recognition technologies.