Apple's reportedly buying out all shares in Swedish face recognition company Polar Rose. The company has similar tech to that Apple already uses in OS X's iPhoto app, so what's the intended use for the new system? Inside iPhones, possibly. And to shut Android out of the game.
Macs already benefit from pretty clever face recognition software that's built into iPhoto; it adds a whole new auto-tagging dimension to your digital family album that lets you quickly surf to pictures of a particular person. Arctic Rose is Polar Rose's own face recognition tech, and it's been built into three different product offerings, according to Swedish Mac site Mac1--one of which is Android compatible.
By buying Polar Rose, Apple can shut off one avenue for easy face recognition integration in competing platform Android, and rocket-boost its own efforts at building the systems into its iPhone. Apart from all sorts of accessibility purposes and auto-person tagging benefits that would come with app integration into social networks like Facebook and Twitter, it has potential security benefits. And login security is something we know Apple has been working on, and aggressively patenting.
Which brings us to one ultimate use for face recognition, in a security sense: an extra dimension of protection for Apple's plans to reinvent the smartphone as a wireless-enabled credit card. The trick would be simple—scan your face from a live photo snapped then and there by the phone's camera, positively ID you as the phone's registered owner, and then have you tap in a pin before the wireless payment is completed. It's not the most reliable form of biometrics, but for this purpose—particularly in a double-layered PIN system—it's quick, good enough, and requires no added hardware (like fingerprint sensors) inside or peripheral to the iPhone's core systems.
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