Apple has been granted a patent that will enable the firm to offer an alternate form biometric authentication on its MacBook and Mac computers. The Cupertino company currently supports unlocking Mac computers via Touch ID, on select models. It introduced Face ID on the iPhone X in 2017 that uses an array of sensors to securely authenticate a user with facial recognition. While Apple is yet to indicate that it plans to add Face ID to future MacBook models, the company’s recent laptops are equipped with a display notch that looks similar to the one that is present on the company’s smartphones since 2017.
Spotted by Patently Apple, the company’s latest patent related to facial recognition on computers was granted on August 15, nearly four years after it was filed in September 2019. The 34-page US patent 11727718-B2 credits Paul Wang, Keith Hendren, Adam Garelli, Antonio Clarke, Joshua Daigle, and Dinesh Mathew as the inventors of the technology.
The patent document contains various diagrams of a hardware module that is capable of light pattern recognition. This hardware module — shown with a range of sensors in figure 4D — is shown to be located at the top of the display on a computer that looks like a MacBook in figure 1A and a desktop Mac computer in figure 10.
The module shown in figure 4D appears to be similar to the Face ID sensor array on recent iPhone models that offer advanced depth mapping for secure facial recognition. According to the patent module, the bracket assembly that houses the module comprises a camera, a flood illuminator, a second camera, an ambient sensor indicator, a camera indicator, and a light dot projector.
It is worth noting that while Apple recently introduced a notch on its MacBook models, the firm is yet to announce any plans to bring Face ID support to future MacBook and Mac models. The hardware required to support a feature like Face ID could require more space than the thin lid of the MacBook — the thickness of an iPhone is an indicator of how much space such a system could take up on a laptop — especially on models like the MacBook Air.
The patent document suggests that Apple has also considered the possibility of including the facial recognition array at another location. instead of the display notch shown in the previous diagrams.
An alternative diagram shows a MacBook equipped with a different system that might not require a display notch. Figure 8A shows a module that can emit infrared light (IR) to identify the user. This section could be concealed on the device under a panel, and figure 7 shows where the module might be located on a MacBook.
Apple is also known for keeping features secret until they are officially unveiled at launch events, which means that we’re unlikely to get confirmation — aside for leaks and rumours — about this feature and whether it will eventually make its way to Apple’s computers in the future.