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Apple Inc. showcased its latest iPhones -- the iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus and iPhone X -- on Tuesday in a much-hyped product unveiling held for the first time at the Steve Jobs Theater at its Cupertino, Calif., campus.

An update of the company's signature gadget, now in its 10th year, was the most anticipated part of the keynote address, and it could have big ramifications for the smartphone industry as a whole.

There was news about the Apple Watch and the Apple TV too.

How the iPhone X's facial recognition technology works

Phil Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of worldwide marketing, explains how Face ID works at the introduction of the new iPhone X on Tuesday in Cupertino, Calif. (Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press)
Phil Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of worldwide marketing, explains how Face ID works at the introduction of the new iPhone X on Tuesday in Cupertino, Calif. (Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press)

Apple users who were squeamish about handing over their fingerprints now face an even more personal proposition: unlocking their smartphones with their faces.

With Face ID, which Apple announced Tuesday, an iPhone X user simply holds up the device and it recognizes his or her face. 

“Nothing has ever been simpler, more natural and effortless,” said Phil Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of worldwide marketing. “Face ID is the future of how we unlock our smartphones and protect our sensitive information.” 

Convenient, but perhaps a bit creepy? Here's how it works. 

The system relies on an advanced suite of tech packed into the front of the new phone. It involves an infrared camera, flood illuminator, front camera, dot projector, proximity sensor and ambient light sensor. 

The dot projector beams out more than 30,000 invisible infrared dots, and the infrared camera captures an image.

Apple uses the infrared image and dot pattern and pushes them through neural networks to create a mathematical model of your face, and then it checks that mathematical model against a stored image captured earlier. Once it detects a match, the phone unlocks.

Schiller said Apple took more than a billion images and multiple neural networks to create Face ID. iPhone X will come with an A11 bionic neural engine to process faces. 

To set it up, hold your iPhone X in front of your face and move your head slowly around. That will become the stored version on your phone.

Face ID is sophisticated enough to work in the dark, and to learn your face under different circumstances -- so go ahead and wear those funky glasses or grow that hipster beard.

Schiller said Apple also worked hard to ensure the technology "can't be easily spoofed by things like photographs."

"They've even gone and worked with professional mask makers and makeup artists in Hollywood to protect against these attempts to beat Face ID," he said. 

The tech also requires user attention to unlock -- your eyes have to be open, and you can't be looking away (meaning your device should remain safe even if you're asleep).

How secure is it? 

With Touch ID, Apple's fingerprint technology, the chance that a random person could unlike your phone with his or her fingerprint is one in 50,000, Apple said. With Face ID, Apple says it's one in 1 million.

And identical twins and those averse to using their faces: You can still unlock your phone with an old-fashioned passcode.

Face ID will work with Apple Pay and third-party apps. 

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