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November 29, 2017

Apple obtains patent that could bring FaceID to the Mac and MacBook

by John_A

Apple was granted a patent on November 28, originally filed in 2016, for a technology that could bring FaceID to the iMac and MacBook sooner rather than later. The patent uses technology from PixelSense, a company Apple acquired back in 2013, according to MacRumors. That technology was the basis for the Xbox One’s Kinect functionality, and eventually became part of the TrueDepth camera on the front of the iPhone X — the one that paints your face with IR dots for FaceID.

The patent details plans for a device which could sit atop a Mac like a webcam, and detect not only your face but your movements. This implementation, as a peripheral, seems unlikely for an Apple product though. Given how TouchID was integrated into the latest MacBook Pro lineup, rather than sold as an add-on, it seems more likely that Apple would embed a TrueDepth-like camera into a new lineup of Macs and MacBooks.

The images in the patent detail more than just using the camera to unlock your computer though. The patent describes the use of gestures like pushing and swiping to control on-screen elements, similar to how Kinect owners could control the on-screen interface on the Xbox One with simple gestures. Additionally, the patent suggests that users might couple FaceID with gestures to unlock compatible devices, adding another layer of security.

“An unlock gesture enables the user to engage a locked non-tactile 3D user interface, as pressing a specific sequence of keys unlocks a locked cellular phone. In some embodiments, the non-tactile 3D user interface conveys visual feedback to the user performing the focus and the unlock gestures,” the patent reads.

While this is all just speculation at this point, the patent comes at an interesting time for Apple. With the recent release of the iPhone X, FaceID is a technology that’s becoming as familiar and reliable as TouchID was. Despite the fact that it took a while for Apple to roll it into the MacBook Pro, things might move quicker with FaceID given Apple’s preference for unified functionality across all its devices. While we might not see it this coming year, it’s entirely possible we could see a FaceID-enabled MacBook or iMac sooner rather than later.

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