Your boring work computer is about to go full Minority Report. Before you know it, you’ll be able to sit down in front of a Windows machine and unlock it just by flashing your face. Sound futuristic? It’s not: This is coming to Windows this year.
Windows Hello is a new suite of biometric authentication options that will ship with Windows 10 in the coming months, at a yet-to-be-determined date. It will enable users to unlock their computers using facial recognition, iris scanning, and Touch ID-style fingerprint scanning.
The new feature comes at a time when tech companies are trying to figure out ways to move beyond the alphanumeric passwords we’ve been typing into computers for decades. Such passwords can be a huge security liability unless users bend over backwards to employ best practices to create bulletproof passwords, at which point the whole thing becomes a bit of a nuisance from a user experience standpoint. It’s grown into such a notorious pain that Yahoo just announced a new “on-demand” password system designed to relieve users of the burden of remembering passwords altogether.
But even disposable passwords are still passwords. Wouldn’t it be so much easier if computers could verify your identity the same way everyone else does: By looking at you? That’s precisely the idea behind Windows Hello.
Facial recognition device-unlocking has been available on Android and jailbroken iOS devices for years, but the technology tends to be somewhat experimental and not always secure. As the underlying technology has evolved (and grown smaller), it’s become more feasible to include this stuff in everyday consumer devices. And it goes beyond faces and fingerprints: Your heartbeat can be used in lieu of a password too, a feature that at least one bank is testing out.
The use of biometrics security in computing is nothing new, but it is inching toward the mainstream. In 2013, Apple unveiled Touch ID, a fingerprint sensor that lets users unlock their iPhones (and now the latest generation of iPads as well). Samsung has its own mobile fingerprint sensor, which is reportedly being retooled to improve functionality. Touch ID’s functionality started out very limited–at first, you could only use it to unlock your phone or authenticate an iTunes purchase. The feature has since been opened up to third-party developers and is being used to authenticate purchases made using Apple Pay. Meanwhile, Google is reportedly bypassing your fingerprint altogether and figuring out a way to let you pay for things using only your voice.
With the launch of Windows Hello, Microsoft is pushing biometric security further into the mainstream. Assuming Windows 10 enjoys widespread adoption, the office of the not-to-distant future could feel a lot more like sci-fi.
[via The Wall Street Journal]