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Apple patent may allow users to unlock devices with their faces

In the future, Apple devices may be able to detect and recognize users' faces, letting them unlock and even control some features on their gadgets with just their mug.

The Cupertino tech company was granted a patent Tuesday for "personal computing device control using face detection and recognition" by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. 

The patent details a system and method that would allow Apple devices to detect users' faces. The patent says Apple devices would be able to recognize if the users standing in front of the gadgets are "authorized." If they are, users could then control some aspects of their gadgets with just their faces.

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The recognition technology could be used to allow users to unlock their gadgets. If the gadget recognizes an authorized user, it could unlock itself.

Besides that, the patent could also use a person's face to determine whether to display certain information, such as an incoming call, message or email. If an unauthorized user is detected, the device would not display the information.

The patent says devices could also use the technology to determine whether a user is using the machine. For example, devices could recognize if a user is reading at his or her computer, even though he or she may not be moving the mouse. If so, the device would know not to turn on its screen saver.

Apple isn't the first to toy around with facial recognition and detection. For some time, Android users have been able to unlock their phones using facial recognition. And Samsung users can scroll up and down on articles by simply looking at their devices and tilting them back and forth.

It seems Apple is considering adding similar features to the iPhone, iPad and Mac computers.

Last month, Apple also acquired PrimeSense, a motion sensor company that worked on the Microsoft Xbox Kinect. That could mean these features may become available in the not-too-distant future.

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