A newly published Apple patent suggests the company has been exploring the possibility of using facial recognition for user identification on its Mac computers for a couple of years now.
First filed in Q3 of 2016, the patent is primarily concerned with the creation of a depth map through a Mac’s embedded camera that could then be used to enable gesture recognition. In other words, the patent covers a system for gesture control of a user’s Mac. But it also notes that “the computer may apply a face detection algorithm… in order to detect the subject’s face of depth map.”
It’s a description with echoes in the Face ID system that later emerged in Apple’s iPhone X. Like the system described in Apple’s gesture control patent, Face ID is based not on two-dimensional imaging but on a 3D map of the user’s face.
Of course, this patent does not mean that Face ID is coming to the Mac. While both systems are based on depth mapping, Face ID undertakes this challenge through the projection of an infrared grid onto the user’s face, whereas the gesture control patent relies on algorithmic projections. And given that the gesture control patent was filed over a year before the iPhone X came to light, there’s little reason to think its almost off-the-cuff mention of face scanning prefigured a feature of an as-yet-unannounced Apple computer.
Nevertheless, the patent points to Apple’s interest in bringing facial recognition to its lines of computers and laptops. And given that there’s mounting evidence that Face ID will be the primary authentication system for this year’s new iPhones and iPad tablets, there’s good reason to expect that Face ID will ultimately make its way to the Mac, too.