The US Patent and Trademark Office has published an Apple patent application for an optical imaging array that would allow for in-display fingerprint recognition. The array would be placed under the screen of a device like the iPhone or the iPad, and “oriented to receive light transmitted through the display in a direction generally opposite that of light emitted from the display.”
In plain terms, that means that the imaging array is able to authenticate users based on the information that it receives through the screen, while also sending light to the screen to display a shape or an animation that draws the user’s attention. Doing so would tell the user where to place their finger in order to complete a scan.
Though Touch ID seems to be the most obvious application of the sensor, it is worth noting that the technology described in the patent is far more flexible than it seems at a glance. According to the patent, the optical imaging array can be used for multiple forms of biometric imaging – including iris and facial recognition – as well as proximity sensing, depth sensing, and ambient light sensing. In the case of fingerprints, the system does not require a static print, and can still identify a finger that is sliding across the screen.
The patent was filed in 2018, and as with most of the company’s patents, it’s unclear if it will ever make its way into Apple’s consumer products. One previous Apple patent detailed an acoustic imaging system, while another demonstrated how Apple could blend Touch and Face ID.
Taken together, the patents strongly suggest that Apple is planning to reintroduce Touch ID in some form, even if the company is still exploring its options when it comes to the specifics. The latest patent simply lends credence to the Touch ID rumors that have been building for the past few months.
Source: Patently Apple