Apple has received a patent for a new facial recognition system that could potentially be used to help identify covered faces. The system first maps the landmarks on the individual’s uncovered face, and then uses the same technology to figure out which of those landmarks have been covered by another object, such as hair, a scarf, or a surgical mask.
In doing so, the system generates an occlusion score that speaks to the overall level of coverage in each region. Comparing the covered face to the original template could raise the accuracy of the system to the point that people would be able to complete various functions (such as unlocking a phone or authorizing a transaction) without removing a mask.
As with any patent, there is no guarantee that the technology will ever make its way into a consumer device. However, the system would seem to have obvious applications in Apple’s Face ID facial recognition solution, which has struggled with masked faces during the COVID-19 pandemic. Most notably, New York’s Metropolitan Transit Authority asked Apple to update its authentication features after discovering that people were taking off their masks to unlock their phones – and increasing the risk of spread – while riding public transit.
In September, the US Patent and Trademark Office granted a separate Apple patent that for a partial face recognition system. The tech giant has also patented technology that could bring Face ID to the Apple Watch, and filed an application for a system that would supplement facial recognition with subdermal vein biometrics.
Source: Patently Apple
January 20, 2021 – by Eric Weiss