The upcoming iPhone X is rumoured to be able to map your face with a 3D camera.
When is comes to rumours about new iPhones, they normally centre on the design, size, processing chips or whether there will be a headphone jack. But a new report from 9 to 5 Mac brings to light something that’s yet to be rumoured, something that could be a little controversial for Apple’s next smartphone – a camera that can map your face.
According to a research note from an Apple analyst, Apple may be considering a camera designed for authentication and augmented reality for its next iPhone. With a better sense of depth, this type of 3D camera can tell how far away something is from the lens and could could even generate an image resembling a 3D selfie.
Adding this kind of camera would be a natural next step for Apple. It already organises iPhone photos based on the subjects it recognises in the images, and competitors, such as Microsoft and Samsung, have used facial recognition for years to unlock phones.
Though facial recognition technology is not all smooth sailing. Companies including Hewlett-Packard and Nikon have faced criticism when their cameras had trouble recognising non-white faces and features, an issue some experts say arise when the algorithms aren’t exposed to a variety of faces while in development.
Security experts have even raised questions about facial recognition as a form of authentication. Wearing a baseball cap or even makeup can inhibit some sensors from recognising your face. People have also found ways to trick some types of facial recognition scans, such as holding a video of a phone owner’s face up to the sensor.
But experts say that Apple’s rumoured plan to use a depth-sensing camera for the feature addresses those issues.
“You can get much more accurate readings,” said Chester Wisniewski of the security firm Sophos. “There are things that can mess with visual sensors. This sees through makeup, to tissue.” He also said this type of camera isn’t easily fooled – even a 3D-printed model of a face shouldn’t trick it.
Researchers from the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a nonprofit devoted to digital rights, said last year that Apple’s approach to privacy should be applauded, but to advance privacy standards in the industry overall, Apple should be more open about its methods and research to enable “technologists, researchers, and companies to learn from it.”
Apple has focused heavily on developing facial recognition technology in recent years and has bought a handful of facial recognition companies — including one firm that will animate your facial expressions in real time. Just last week, Israeli media reported that Apple picked up a start-up called RealFace, which uses facial recognition for security purposes.