Apple Invents a Bio-Authentication System for Apple Watch using Subepidermal Imaging that could be combined with Touch ID
Today the US Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple relating to a possible future Apple Watch using an emerging new bio-Authentication system that establishes patterns under the skin unique to a user. There are several biometric patterns Apple may choose from including vein, bone, and pigmentation. Two weeks ago Patently Apple posted a report titled "Apple Advances Face ID to be 'Twin Proof' using Machine Learning, Subepidermal Imaging and more." With Face ID, adding subepidermal imaging would be an added value.
Earlier today Patently Apple posted an IP report titled "Apple's Next-Gen Touch ID uses Optical Imaging Sensors under a Display for a Variety of Devices like Apple Watch." Once again, adding subepidermal imaging as a secondary biometric ID to Touch ID would be great.
As a single bio-authentication system, it's unknown if the public is ready to accept its validity and the inventors clearly anticipate this possibility and provide a workaround that we cover later in this report.
Apple Watch with Light Field Camera that performs Bio-Authentication
Apple's invention covers systems and methods for an Apple Watch using a light field camera at the bottom of the watch that could be used as a user ID system. The light field camera may be used to image a wrist of a user. The imaging may be performed from a dorsal side of the forearm that is shown in patent FIG. 5 further into this report.
A synthetic focusing operation may be performed on a light field image obtained from the light field camera, to construct at least one image of at least one layer of the forearm near the wrist. A set of features of the forearm near the wrist may be extracted from the at least one image and compared to a reference set of features (e.g., a hair follicle pattern, a vascular pattern, a vein pattern, an artery pattern, a blood perfusion pattern in skin, a blood perfusion pattern in tendons, a blood perfusion pattern in fascia, a tendon pattern, a connective tissue pattern, a skin pigmentation pattern, a pore pattern, and/or a bone shape pattern obtained during a bio-authentication enrollment process performed for the user).
An operation (e.g., a bio-authentication operation, a bio-authentication enrollment operation, a secure transaction operation, a health monitoring operation, or a health assessment operation) may be performed in response to whether the set of features matches the reference set of features. In some embodiments, a tilt of the light field camera with respect to the dorsal side of the forearm may be determined and compensated for, prior to or while performing the synthetic focus operation.
Apple's patent FIG. 2 shows an example of a watch including a biosensor system; FIG. 3 shows the watch of FIG/ 2 attached to a forearm of a user near the user's wrist.
In patent FIG. 2 we're able to see the back side of a future Apple Watch that has a cover (#114) that protects part or all of a biosensor system (#116) mounted within the housing. The biosensor system may include a light field camera positioned adjacent the cover to receive light through the cover. The biosensor system may be configured to image a forearm of a user near a wrist of the user, and perform a bio-authentication of the user based on the imaging.
Apple's patent FIGS. 4 and 5 below show various features that may be identified in a set of one or more layer images constructed from a light field image obtained from a dorsal side of a forearm of a user near the user's wrist.
Apple's patent FIG. 10 below illustrates an exploded view of another set of components that may be included in a biosensor system such as the biosensor system shown in FIGS. 2 and 3. Click on our image below to see more details; FIG. 16 shows an example method of authenticating a user of a watch or other wearable electronic device.
Because of the novelty of the invention, the inventors note that "the present technology can be configured to allow users to optionally bypass biometric authentication steps by providing secure information such as passwords, personal identification numbers (PINS), touch gestures, or other authentication methods, alone or in combination."
Apple's patent application 20190095602 that was published today by the U.S. Patent Office was originally filed back in Q3 2018. Considering that this is a patent application, the timing of such a product to market is unknown at this time.
Three out of the four inventors/Apple engineers who filed the patent for the next-gen Touch ID patent is behind this patent as well. The fourth inventor listed on this patent application is Manohar Srikanth, Camera & Imaging Technologist. His LinkedIn bio notes: "Application and expertise include mobile imaging, imaging for AR/VR, Lightfield Photography, Depth Imaging, Optical Systems, Computational Illumination, Color Imaging, and Computational Methods for imaging (Computational Photography)." He came to Apple via Nokia Research.
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