OnePlus Details Face Unlock on the OnePlus 5T: Intended for Convenience and Ease of Use
Facial recognition is experiencing something of a renaissance. Google’s implementation in Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich — Face Unlock — didn’t have too many takers because it tended to be slow and unreliable. It stuck around as Trusted Face in newer versions of Android, but it wasn’t until Samsung brought an improved, faster version of facial recognition to its Galaxy smartphones that the technology really took off. Although Samsung’s implementation is insecure compared to high-tech alternatives like Apple’s FaceID, that didn’t stop companies such as Vivo and LG from following suit. Most recently, OnePlus climbed aboard the bandwagon with Face Unlock, a feature of the OnePlus 5T.
Face Unlock was a solution to a design problem, OnePlus explained in a blog post. The OnePlus 5T’s 18:9 display and small bezels necessitated moving the fingerprint sensor from the front to the back, but OnePlus wanted to provide a way to unlock the phone from the front. It settled on facial recognition.
OnePlus concedes, that Face Unlock is more about convenience than security, though — the company makes no claims that it rivals 3D scanning technologies like Apple’s FaceID. Face Unlock is not intended to be as secure as a fingerprint sensor, and so it doesn’t support Android Pay and other secure applications. To authenticate those, OnePlus says, you’ll have to use the fingerprint sensor.
OnePlus posted an explanation on how Face Unlock works, and how updates will improve its functionality:
- Firstly, the company said that Face Unlock makes sure that the person trying to unlock the OnePlus 5T matches the user who’s set up his or her face. The phone’s front camera analyzes “over 100 identifiers” on your face such as “the [interpupilary] distance between your eyes” and “[the distance] between your nose and upper lip,” OnePlus said. And OnePlus claims to have included numerous parameters so that “Face Unlock works in different lighting conditions as well as when you are wearing glasses.”
- Secondly, Face Unlock makes sure that the user is “alive”. According to the company, its “liveness” checks reduce the chance that someone will successfully unlock someone’s phone by using a photograph or video.
- Thirdly, in an effort to reduce the chance of someone trying to trick Face Unlock with multiple pictures, OnePlus says that the OnePlus 5T automatically deactivates after five unsuccessful attempts. After the deactivation of Face Unlock, the phone requires a fingerprint scan or security code to unlock.
All that said, OnePlus acknowledges that Face Unlock isn’t perfect.
The problem with most facial recognition systems on Android, Face Unlock included, is that they’re vulnerable to being tricked by photos or videos of users. OnePlus admits that right now, any person could use a selfie on another phone and place it front of the OnePlus 5T to unlock it.
The company argues that the chances of someone having physical access to a person’s phone and a detailed photograph of said person is fairly low, but it says it’ll issue a preemptive update anyway. In the next few weeks, the OnePlus 5T will understand whether “the subject is emitting light (a phone) versus reflecting (a user’s actual face)” by analyzing shadows and bright areas, and by looking for screen reflections and the presence of square elements (i.e.g, the shape of a phone or a picture frame) in front of the camera.
Overall, Face Unlock looks to be an interesting addition to the OnePlus 5T. Thought it might not be as secure as other authentication methods, it’s good to know that that it’s more advanced than the version developed by Google.
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