Google wins face-to-unlock patent

The Samsung Galaxy S3 already has a facial recognition app
The Samsung Galaxy S3 already has a facial recognition app

Google has been awarded a patent for the ability to unlock your Android device with only your face.

The patent covers logging into a "computing device" using a method to detect a user's face.

Several methods are described in the patent, including taking a single picture of the user's face, multiple pictures and angles for 3D facial recognition, and 3D facial recognition with the user making a specific facial expression for authentication.

It also covers the device allowing for multiple accounts, each unlocked by a different person's face.

Passing your smartphone or tablet to a friend would trigger it to sign into their account, assuming that the friend already created an account on your device.

Patent protected, but not much has changed

If the feature sounds familiar, that is because it already exists on Android smartphones and was introduced with Ice Cream Sandwich.

The experimental feature is notoriously low on security, in its early version allowing users to log in simply by using a photo.

Earlier this year Google announced that it will beef up the face-to-unlock security with Jelly Bean by implementing blink detection as a "Liveness Check."

Just because Google now has a patent on facial recognition logins, it does not necessarily mean the feature will remain an Android-exclusive.

In December of last year Apple was awarded its own patent for a similar feature using slightly different methods.