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Beyond Face ID: Apple Patents Technology That Can Scan Under Your Skin

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As a new patent suggests, Apple might be readying the next evolution of its Face ID technology, which debuted in 2017 for its iPhone X flagship.

First filed in 2015, the patent describes a new kind of technology that could give Apple's future iPhones a bump when it comes to biometric scanning.

Apple's Face ID is currently one of, if not the most advanced facial recognition system on mobile phones. With radiation, it could be better.

By using "pulsed radiation," as Apple's patent suggests, a sensor is able to look beyond the user's skin and into their veins. As spotted by Apple Insider, the Cupertino company illustrates how using infrared light can capture images of the veins beneath one's skin.

The technology may be used alongside Face ID, according to the patent.

Apple Patents Vein Scanning

"A complex pattern of blood vessels runs close beneath the skin of the face, and detection of this pattern under infrared illumination could be used, for example, to enhance the reliability of facial authentication."

Apple notes that vein-scanning may solve Face ID's "twin problem," which happens when Face ID can't tell twins apart, and thus unlocks the phone when either face is scanned. Vein structure is unique, even among twins, which theoretically would enable Apple to have the most dead-accurate facial recognition technology by any measure.

Google And Samsung Have Done It

However, it should be noted that Apple isn't the first company to dabble with vein-based biometrics. In 2013, Google also filed a patent for Google Glass devices that can authenticate a user based on a number of biometrics, including "eye vein images both individually and in combination." Samsung also filed one for smartwatches that can detect veins, but Apple's patent is unique because the technology can be combined with Face ID, which could deliver optimum facial recognition accuracy on its future iPhones.

"Could," of course, is the key word here. Patents don't indicate a company's plans — they can only illustrate what kinds of technology a company is dabbling with. It may very well be the case that Apple ends up not using vein-based facial recognition at all. Companies most often use patents as preemptive measures: to prevent others from copying their ideas, even if they don't actualize those ideas themselves.

Even still, vein-based facial recognition sounds fairly like something Apple would do at some point, especially since it seems there's no going back with Face ID.

Thoughts on a smartphone that can scan your veins? As always, if you have anything to share, feel free to sound off in the comments section below!

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