Friday, Aug 27, 2021, 09:38 Hardware

Face ID: New Generation In The Works, Clear Recognition Even With Masks

Face ID has been a standard iPhone feature for about 4 years now. Starting with the iPhone X in the fall of 2017, Apple switched the iPhone from "Touch" to "Face" ID followed by various other models. Despite speculation that Apple might bring Touch ID back to the high price range of products by integrating the technology into touch displays, Apple will likely remain loyal to Face ID for the foreseeable future. According to recent reports, Cupertino is even working on expanding support for the feature. The new version will hopefully address issues with facial recognition when users are wearing masks or foggy glasses. Given that corona is likely to stick around for a little bit longer, the changes are welcomed.

Right Now – Face ID + Mask Only Possible With Apple Watch
For users of an Apple Watch, iOS 14.5 has already enabled the use of Face ID with face masks – although, the user recognition doesn't function exactly quite like before. When "mask mode" is active, Face ID will only check users' eyes but still isn't capable of recognizing the user themselves anymore. According to the highly regarded Jon Prosser, Apple's now researching a system capable of clearly identifying users despite mouth or nose protection. An additional sensor will be necessary for the feature's support and the Apple Watch wouldn't be required anymore.

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Employees Currently Testing The Feature
Apple's currently testing the feature internally with the help of an "attachment sensor" for current iPhones. This allows a large number of employees to take part in the internal testing process without needing the as of yet unreleased iPhone 13's. The technology is very likely to be released with the next iPhone generation. Previously released CAD drawings already revealed a few changes in the arrangement of the sensors in the iPhone 13's facial recognition model.


On the left, the sensor adaptor. On the right, CAD rendering of the new front sensor.


The "test sensor" used in the photo above is a copy. Prosser has indicated that he is hesitant to show the original sensor as it contains markings that could reveal the inside source. According to Prosser, partakers in the testing program were given the adaptors and then instructed to try them out with various masks and glasses. The combination of "mask + fogged glasses" is one of the main challenges to overcome for the project. Glasses owners are likely already acutely familiar with the problem, especially in cold weather.

Potential Arrival Via Software Update?
Prosser's source isn't sure whether or not the feature will be available upon the iPhone 13's release or arrive later in the form of a software update. Since employee testing only recently began, it's possible that we won't be able to switch to the new method of facial recognition until a software update is released.

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