Apple Is Reportedly Testing 3D Facial Scans to Unlock iPhones

Through its locked-down operating systems and App Store ecosystem — as well as its noteworthy staring contest with the FBI — Apple has long positioned itself as the face of security and privacy. But if recent rumors about the forthcoming iPhone are to be believed, the company may have a new look when it comes to unlocking its future hardware: your mug, or at least a 3D-scan of it.

According to a report from Bloomberg, the Apple is in the midst of testing out a new way to unlock its phones using front-facing 3D sensors and retinal scanning. The report describes speed and accuracy as "focal points of the feature," which is said to work in less than a few hundred milliseconds. In addition, the selfie-as-security would encompass more data points than the Touch ID sensor, says Bloomberg, making it potentially even tougher to crack than the company's fingerprint scanner (which can be taken down with a blob of Play-Doh).

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However, the new biometric authentication method would also require additional hardware; owners of existing iPhones wouldn't just be able to wink at their front-facing cameras to unlock their handsets. This detail lines up with rumors that Fortune has reported previously, as Apple has been looking to eliminate Touch ID for more than a year. The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The thinking is that by removing the home button, Apple will be able to free up front-facing real estate for a bigger screen that can better accommodate the company's augmented reality ambitions. As far out as that might seem, it's nearer term than some of the company's other ambitions, such as using front-facing sensors and artificial intelligence to read people's emotions.

Just imagine: In response to your grimacing gob unlocking your iPhone, the screen flashes some lighter news alerts, or serves up a cute photo of your kids. That's a "faceprint" that would make me smile.

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