Apple is going all in on 3D facial recognition with a new investment of $390 million in Finisar, the second-biggest supplier of vertical-cavity surface-emitting lasers (VCSELs) used in the Face ID authentication system of its iPhone X.
Apple has drawn the money from its billion-dollar Advanced Manufacturing Fund, which is intended to support US-based high-tech manufacturers. Finisar is only the second firm to see a grant from the fund, after Corning received $200 million in May of this year.
The Finisar investment will revive a manufacturing plant in Texas, and should help to create over 500 jobs, according to Apple. It will also lead to more VCSELs for Apple in the latter half of 2018, helping to protect Apple against potential shortages from its leading VCSEL supplier, Lumentum.
The dramatic investment suggests that Apple is fully committing to 3D facial recognition as the primary means of user authentication for upcoming devices. While there has so far been at least one high-profile spoofing claim concerning Face ID on the iPhone X, that attempt requires elaborate materials and technical knowledge in the creation of a mask; meanwhile, reviewers and consumer appear to have responded positively to Face ID as a convenient and secure means of user authentication on the iPhone X.
Ahead of the launch of the iPhone X this autumn, renowned mobile industry analyst Ming-Chi Kuo of KGI Securities suggested that Apple plans to embrace Face ID on all of next year’s iPhone models; and a recent Bloomberg report asserted that Apple will bring the facial recognition system to an iPad tablet planned for next year. Apple is expected to also abandon fingerprint sensors on those devices, as it has on the iPhone X, but the emergence of in-display fingerprint sensor technology could prompt the company to reconsider, especially if it is embraced by its rivals.