Chromebooks could support human presence detection in the near future
Human presence detection and facial recognition support could soon be coming to Chromebooks, according to recent commits on the Chromium Gerritt. Google is working on adding code related to a human presence sensor on Chrome OS, similar to what some Windows laptops already offer. The information was uncovered by 9to5Google.
A human presence sensor doesn’t necessarily guarantee that facial recognition support is coming to Chromebooks, but the two features tend to go hand in hand. If you look at Windows laptops that support human presence detection, it’s usually an add-on to Windows Hello. What the human presence sensor does is allow the computer to wake up when the user walks up to it. Then, the Windows Hello camera can recognize the user and unlock the PC, all without direct interaction from the user. This makes it far more convenient than even a fingerprint sensor. The human presence sensor can also work the other way, and automatically lock the computer when you move away from it.
There’s a bit more information uncovered in Google’s commits, too. The feature seems to be in the early stages of development, but if a Chromebook has human presence detection, it will show an icon in the system tray. Currently, the icon is static, but it could change to indicate that a person is being detected or potentially even warn the user of people approaching them from behind.
Google is working with dedicated hardware to run human presence detection in its tests, specifically the CrossLink NX LIFCL-17 from Lattice Semiconductor. The company is also working with Antmicro to leverage the hardware using open-source software as much as possible.
Finally, the tests also point to some of the devices Google is testing the feature is being tested on. 9to5Google found evidence of Google testing this feature on devices codenamed Brya and Zork. Zork is a generic codename for AMD-powered Chromebooks, but Brya specifically refers to laptops with Intel’s 12th-generation “Alder Lake” processors. The code change where this was spotted was later marked as abandoned and replaced with another version that is less specific.
There’s no clear indication as to when Chromebooks with human presence detection might show up. The code changes do point toward this being very early work, so it may take a while for it to materialize. It’s also not clear if the addition of human presence detection is planned to go along with facial recognition similar to Windows Hello, though that would seem to make the most sense.