The iPhone 8’s advanced facial recognition system is slated to be cutting-edge. In fact, weird or unusual viewing angles could be no match for the advanced biometric platform, according to new code unveiled in the HomePod firmware.
The advanced “Face ID” system, which seems to be codenamed internally at Apple as Pearl, will reportedly be able to detect a user’s face even when it’s not in frame, for example, if the device is laying on a desk or other flat surface. This isn’t the first we’ve heard of such a capability, either. A Bloomberg report from July suggested that the iPhone 8’s facial recognition system is “designed to work even if the device is laying flat on a table, rather than just close up to the face.”
Now, several bits of code have been uncovered in HomePod’s firmware that corroborate the advanced functionality. First spotted by Brazilian site iHelpBR, there are several references to a “resting unlock” feature of Pearl — specifically, “AXRestingPearlUnlock” and “com.apple.accessibility.resting.pearunlock.” It is, interestingly, tagged as an Accessibility option — though its potential usefulness would apply to just about every iPhone user.
The HomePod firmware also refers to several other Pearl-related features. For example, there’s a string of code referring to “APPS_USING_PEARL” — which could mean that Face ID could be used in place of Touch ID in third-party applications. There’s also references to a Pearl “Autolock” feature, which iHelpBR theorizes could be a security enhancement that locks a phone if it detects a non-authenticated face. Alternatively, Apple was awarded a patent in 2015 for a method that would automatically lock a phone if a user’s face is no longer detected by the device’s sensor.
This “resting unlock,” alongside reports of other advanced features, seems to indicate that Pearl or Face ID will be far more advanced than other mass-market facial recognition systems. Apple’s new biometric platform is rumored to work via infrared sensing technology, and the iPhone 8’s rumored 3D sensors could also add security and functionality to the system. That same Bloomberg story from July reported that Face ID would take just milliseconds to authenticate a face and unlock a device. Presumably, all of this will add up to a security platform that won’t be as easily fooled by a photo of a face.
Face ID’s advanced capabilities could be a necessity for the iPhone 8. While many rumors suggested that Apple’s next-gen flagship would be equipped with a rear-mounted or display-embedded Touch ID, more recent reports seem to indicate that the iPhone 8 might not have a fingerprint sensor at all. Other HomePod leaks reveal that Face ID could even be used for secure financial transactions like Apple Pay. To be sure, for Face ID to be a truly viable replacement for Touch ID, it has to be perfect.