Today it was learned, through a US Patent and Trademark Office filing, that Google has been granted a patent concerning the logging in of multiple users by facial recognition.

Typically, the granting of yet another tech patent wouldn't be extraordinarily interesting news. But given the fact that Google's latest patent relates to multiple user support, and the fact that code meant for multiple user support has been sitting right under our noses in AOSP for some time now, patent number 8,261,090 is definitely worth discussing.

Without quoting the entire 17,000 word filing, patent '090 essentially covers methods that allow a "computing device" to recognize one or more users' identities based on facial recognition, and then give them access to resources specifically assigned to them. Much of the patent explains the actual process of capturing information to confirm a user's identity, and it sounds – unsurprisingly – very similar to Android's existing face unlock methods.


Is the technology described in this patent headed for Android, though? No one knows, but it sure sounds like there's a possibility.

… Implementations can include one or more of the following features. For example, the camera can be physically integrated with the computing device. The computing device can include a phone. …

Regardless of where this patent ends up leading (or not leading), it's certainly interesting, and we can only hope that the functionality described makes its way onto our phones and into our hearts in a future Android release.

Source: USPTO Via Engadget

Liam Spradlin
Liam loves Android, design, user experience, and travel. He doesn't love ill-proportioned letter forms, advertisements made entirely of stock photography, and writing biographical snippets.

  • http://profiles.google.com/mechanizedapathy Shawn Brandel

    Ugly as software patents are, it's good to see Google getting their shit together on that end.

  • http://twitter.com/AHHSom Im Real

    [sees what apple will say about this]

    • Marcos Amano

      They will sue Google for filing a patent.

  • mega cynar

    Prior art would be Microsoft with Kinect but at least the patent isn't with Apple. :p

    • Brfield

      Prior art would go WAAAYYYY back before that. I was using face unlock with a webcam in the early to mid 2000's on win XP just for fun.

      • Greg Bissell

        It's multi user face unlock

      • Mike

        And this applies only to mobile devices.

  • oneillperson

    This is going to be such a great addition to the next iteration of Android! I can think of plenty of ways this will come in handy.

  • Freak4Dell

    I hope this ends up in Android, and I hope they implement it correctly. I'm not so much concerned with the actual face unlock, but the multiple users part would be great. SwitchMe can do multiple users, but I really hate how you have to restart the tablet to switch, and their login screen is kind of clunky. If Google can make it as smooth a process as it is on Windows, that would be awesome.

  • http://twitter.com/ezammi Zammi K M

    Yes.. time to change the lock screen (swipe) altogether.
    Make tace detection by default, ....

  • http://visionaforethought.wordpress.com/ Oflife

    This is not an original invention, so the mind boggles how Google got away with this. What happened to 'prior art'?

    • http://profiles.google.com/marcusleejh Marcus Lee

      Oh, so who created the "original invention" then?

      • http://visionaforethought.wordpress.com/ Oflife

        Other than references in movies, which probably applies to many such concepts, and my own technical/concept documents (for my employer), biometric login on multi-user systems is already used in professional/corporate/military environments. Admittedly, some of those use eye scans, not face recognition. Eye scans are more accurate - they trace the pattern of the blood vessels, much harder to 'clone' than facial recognition.

        • ScottColbert

          "and my own technical/concept documents " Oh, some sour grapes then.

          • http://visionaforethought.wordpress.com/ Oflife

            No, because they didn't lift it from us, but it is not a new idea and has been done before, even if not within a Google property. I'm an Android fan, developer & user so keen on such developments, but there was a lot of criticism for Apple receiving patents on various concepts and actual demos presented by others, so I was providing some perspective. Sour grapes would come if there had been a legitimate theft of intellectual property, but you would not read about it in a comment box, it would be dealt with in a court of law - and then appear as a news story.

    • itznfb

      Apple didn't invent a single thing for which they hold a patent.

  • Kenny O

    For me the only real use for multi user functionality is on a tablet, but I love to see this kind of innovation and it is a great option to have either way. This would be also be another reason that someone might need a front facing camera on their phone, assuming the rumored bezel-less phone lacks one.

  • lolobabes

    using multiuser accounts on phones is a bit useless but on tablets it may come handy, ahihihihi

    • Cjfreeway

      You probably don't have children.

      • FrillArtist

        Who shares their smartphone with their kids? Besides maybe taking it to play games or something. Don't know of anyone who shares phones with children.

        • Kenny O

          It's not for sharing the phone as much as activating a guest profile and handing the phone to your kid to keep them occupied at dinner or something of that nature. I bought my son a tablet, but there are occasions where we forget to bring it and it's nice to let watch videos on the phone.

          • http://twitter.com/mxfox408 Jake Fox

            Lol really? Haha kids using smartphones? Lol sorry but I make sure I keep my kids away from technology to keep them from becoming addicts, or dependent on it.

          • Matthew Fry

            Agree. As much as I can agree before having children of my own. In my own future fantasy land of perfectness my children watch very little TV and use tablets/computers as productivity tools.

          • John O’Connor

            my 2 year old nephew loves tablets, ipads, android phones, etc. and he can use them fairly well.

          • Freak4Dell

            I agree with you, but we're probably the minority on a tech site like this. I see how dependent on technology I am, and I was really only exposed to it when I was about 11 or 12. If I have kids, I want to try and give them at least a few years of tech-free life and try to hedge the addiction a bit.

  • http://profiles.google.com/marcusleejh Marcus Lee

    Why is it even a question..? I think we can already say with 100% certainty that this will be coming to Android. Wasn't there people who discovered some parts of the code in recent Android builds already?

    Also, if Google doesn't use it here, then they'll only be using it on Chrome. Given the relative popularity of the two platforms, the odds greatly favor Android...

  • itznfb

    Finally a tablet can become a household device. Although... that destroys my excuse for buying two tablets.

    • fixxmyhead

      seriously why do u need two? waste of money

      • itznfb

        So is one. Your comment is terrible. How about more than one people live in my house. Two people can't use a tablet at the same time. I'm not poor so I can afford to "waste" money on two tablets.

        • fixxmyhead

          one is ok if its something like a n7 but anythign else is different. honestly these things arent all that cracked up to be. i thought i would be using it more often but id rather just use my laptop.

  • http://twitter.com/mxfox408 Jake Fox

    What about the notification pulldown patent filled 4 years ago? Still pending? BS IMO

  • Arcest

    It would be better and fastest to use fingerpring for screen unlocking rather than face unlocking. So I shouldn't have to be entering this twisted unlock pattern every time I want to check something.

  • DanielM426

    And yet they still haven't received the pull down notification bar patent?