While Apple's vice president of iPad and Mac product marketing Tom Boger downplayed Face ID for Macs in 2021, today the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office officially granted Apple their second patent relating to biometric authentication for future Macs. This is something that Apple has been working on since 2018. Microsoft's "Hello" facial recognition is lightning fast and convenient for PC's and Mac users have expressed their desire for this feature on MacBooks, especially because Apple now has the camera notch in place.
Apple's granted patent relates to a biometric authentication module for authenticating a user of a portable computing device. In particular, the various embodiments relate to a light pattern recognition module that is capable of emitting a predetermined pattern of light at the user, and subsequently detecting a pattern of light that is reflected by the user for authenticating the user.
According to some embodiments, a laptop computer having a base portion pivotally coupled to a lid portion is described. The laptop computer includes a display assembly carried by the lid portion, where the display assembly includes a light-transmissive cover, a display layer overlaid by the light-transmissive cover, a display stack electrically coupled to and overlaid by the display layer, and a light pattern recognition module adjacent to the display stack and overlaid by the display layer. The light pattern recognition module includes a light pattern projector that projects a light pattern directly through the display layer.
Apple's patent FIGS. 1A and 10 illustrated below show the traditional notch that supports a Face ID module that is enlarged in FIG. 4D.
Apple's patent FIG. 7 below illustrates a MacBook with an alternative Face ID camera system in area #750 being where Apple could integrate a "light pattern recognition module" (#750). In some examples, the light pattern recognition module be carried by the multi-function panel #760. In particular, the multi-function panel may be overlaid by a protective layer, which may help to conceal the light pattern recognition module.
Update Image: Below is an example of a camera in the function key row as Apple is suggesting. The image below is from a notebook from Huawei with a "Key Camera."
The light pattern recognition module includes a light dot projector that is capable of emitting a predetermined pattern of light (e.g., IR light) towards the face of a user in front of the display. The light dot projector may emit a pattern of light dots onto the object in order to form a depth map (or three-dimensional map) of the surface of the object.
In some examples, the pattern of light is in a near-infrared or infrared (IR) light. In particular, the light dot projector is capable of emitting multiple light rays that may not be in the visible light spectrum. As the pattern of light hits the surface of the user's face, the light is reflected back towards the light pattern recognition module at various angles of incidence.
For more details, review Apple's granted patent 11727718. In Apple's second granted patent they've added another 20 new patent claims, with the first nine of them focused solely on a "Laptop."