Macs could soon get better security with sophisticated spin on Face ID

MacBook Pro (15-inch, 2019)
(Image credit: Future)
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Face ID might soon be coming to the Mac, at least going by a patent that's just been approved – and perhaps most excitingly, the system described is a more sophisticated version of facial recognition than that seen on the iPhone.

Apple’s patent, as granted by the USPTO (opens in new tab) (and spotted by 9 to 5 Mac (opens in new tab)), details a facial recognition system that would be clever enough not to engage sleep mode when you are still busy with the machine.

In other words, Apple is aiming to avoid scenarios where you might seem to be doing nothing – watching a video, not moving and providing no input to the Mac, for example – and a timeout happens, putting the machine to sleep and interrupting your viewing.

If you can be detected in front of the computer, sleep mode (or other reduced power modes) won’t automatically kick in when a simple timer expires.

Face on

Even more interestingly, the Face ID system described is capable of automatically waking itself from sleep, and logging you on, when you come near the Mac.

The idea here is that while in sleep, the camera (or other sensors – ultrasonic and radar are also mentioned) watches for people coming within a certain distance of the machine (close enough to use). If that person happens to be the user, the computer wakes and logs them on.

Put these two elements together, and you’ll have a pretty slick facial recognition system. Before we get carried away though, keep firmly in mind that this is simply a patent at this point. There’s no guarantee Apple is planning on fully realizing this system for the Mac, and many patents never actually make it beyond the research or testing phases.

Still, this one does seem a likely move, and Face ID functionality is something Mac users have been wanting for some time, seeing as it arrived on the iPhone two years ago.

And given that Apple has recently been busy pointing out (opens in new tab) that Face ID is more secure than Touch ID on the iPhone, you’d hope that the company would be planning on bringing facial recognition chops to Macs sooner rather than later.

Probably not as soon as the rumored incoming 16-inch MacBook supposedly due later this year, mind…

Darren is a freelancer writing news and features for TechRadar (and occasionally T3) across a broad range of computing topics including CPUs, GPUs, various other hardware, VPNs, antivirus and more. He has written about tech for the best part of three decades, and writes books in his spare time (his debut novel - 'I Know What You Did Last Supper' - was published by Hachette UK in 2013).